Living With Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Hi there. I am wondering if there’s anyone out there who, like me, is living with Stage 4 breast cancer?
It would be good to be in contact with other people who are living with this disease.
In July 2011 I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma which was already widespread throughout both lungs and liver.
I would be interested to talk to anyone else who finds themselves in a similar position and who, despite the difficult prognosis, is determined to keep as fit as possible, access all medical treatment and eat well.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Do I Need Genetic Counseling And Testing
Your doctor may recommend that you see a genetic counselor. Thats someone who talks to you about any history of cancer in your family to find out if you have a higher risk for getting breast cancer. For example, people of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage have a higher risk of inherited genetic changes that may cause breast cancers, including triple-negative breast cancer. The counselor may recommend that you get a genetic test.
If you have a higher risk of getting breast cancer, your doctor may talk about ways to manage your risk. You may also have a higher risk of getting other cancers such as ovarian cancer, and your family may have a higher risk. Thats something you would talk with the genetic counselor about.
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Learning To Live With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Living with metastatic breast cancer goes beyond the treatment room. It is a holistic approach. Having metastatic breast cancer is a lifelong disease, and its now a part of my new normal. My husband was right when he said that I must reinvent myself. After being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, I had to revamp my entire lifestyle. I once used to be able to work 12-hour shifts as a labor and delivery nurse. But after my diagnosis, I could barely work such a physically demanding job and had to get Social Security Disability Insurance while I had to make modifications to my career. I chose to teach childbirth education instead and finished school to become a nurse practitioner. Now, I work as a primary care provider in telemedicine.
I could go on and on about how my life has changed because of metastatic breast cancer. My emotional, spiritual, physical, and intellectual lifestyle is now all connected to or affected by metastatic breast cancer.
Cancer Doesn’t Have To Scare You Out Of Enjoying Life
Try not to analyze too much or think about the past and what might have caused your cancer, as that is futile now. At first, its bewildering and theres a lot to learn in a short time, but just take it one step at a time.
There are a lot of stages to go through before you start to realize that life can be good. I know that from where you are right now that might seem strange, but for me, having stage IV cancer with extensive bone mets has focused my mind to what really matters in life.
Don’t blame yourself. You did nothing wrong. This is just rotten bad luck.
Learn to be selfish. And by that I mean learn to put yourself first. A lot of women go through life making themselves their last priority. For me, getting sick has taught me that I was there for everyone but myself and that had to change.
Take it one day at a time. Don’t look at the future, just take your tablets, turn up for appointments, and between those times find things that make you happy and concentrate on those.
Live in the moment. Each moment is a gift. Appreciate what you have. Don’t focus on what you’ve lost.
This is a lot to process but, believe me you will find that having cancer, frightening as the diagnosis is, doesn’t have to scare you out of enjoying life. Leapfrog
Screening: Pros And Cons
The topic of screening for brain lesions has become controversial in the field of breast cancer, mostly because of a lack of evidence. However, multiple studies in the works will attempt to disentangle the effects of regular brain MRIs on patients with breast cancer.
We dont have definitive data to say that screening is useful, and screening has the potential to be harmful if its done in a way that leads to treatment changes that may or may not be necessary, says Lin, who does not routinely screen patients but has a very low threshold for ordering a brain scan. People could end up getting treatments that they dont necessarily need or getting switched off the treatments that would otherwise have worked. Thats the argument against universal screening for brain metastases.
Hendron and Reece get regular brain MRIs to check for the appearance of new secondary tumors. In 2019, Hendrons doctors uncovered three more brain metastases, which were treated with stereotactic brain radiation therapy. Since then, her scans have been stable.
I often say cancer is a mind game. The body game is what the doctors and medicinedo, but the mind game is the work we have to do, she says. The biggest piece of advice is: You just have to learn to be present. All we have is this moment, and each person has to find what works for them to be in the moment.
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Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Terminal
Metastatic breast cancer cant be cured and it is terminal. One thing I didnt know when I was first diagnosed is that breast cancer can only kill you if you have metastatic breast cancer, says Rosen, who explains that if your cancer remains in the breast, the tumor can be removed, but metastatic means it has spread outside the breast.
MBC is almost like a different disease than early-stage breast cancer, adds Ann Silberman, 60, from Sacramento, California, who was diagnosed in 2009. We are going to die. Our concerns are much different from those of a person who has a treatment that will be over . Someone in an earlier stage may worry about losing their hair which is understandable but they will return to their normal life at some point.
People with metastatic breast cancer expect to be on treatment for the rest of their lives. I dont think everyone understands that, Silberman says. I still get, When will your treatment be over? Well, its never going to be over.
Can You Actually Survive Stage 4 Breast Cancer Nowadays
Thanks in advance for any advice or answers.
Am sorry to trouble you but am confused about what i have read and what i have been told.
I have been told by a medical team that advanced breast cancer can be loooked at just like a chronic illness in some circumstances
And I have also read recently that advanced breast cancer has an excellent survival rate,.
But what is excellent in these circumstances? I want to be positive but also realistic.
I read tales where people are happy that either themselves, their friends or relatives made it to 5 years, which indeed is lovely.
And I know this may sound odd or maybe ungrateful but Is this considered excellent?
I always thought with chronic illnesses you just lived a normal life span but carried on with treatment.
Has anyone ever made it to 10, 20, 30,or even 40 years?
Also Check: What Age Does Breast Cancer Affect
What Are The Survival Rates For Common Cancers In Stage Iv
According to the American Cancer Society, patients whose breast cancer is detected while it is still in the localized form have a 5-year survival rate of 98%. However, patients with stages III and IV breast cancer have survival rates of 72% and 26%, respectively.
Skin cancer is the most common form of all types of cancer, and if found early, nearly 100% treatable, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The 5-year survival rate of patients with stage IV melanoma, however, is around 19%.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, the 5-year survival rate is 98.9% if the cancer is caught before it has spread beyond the prostate gland. The survival rate drops to about 28-30% if the cancer is detected at stage IV.
Also known as colorectal or bowel cancer, colon cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . It is also the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. because it is often not diagnosed early enough. The 5-year survival rate for stage IV colon cancer is 39%. For stage IV rectal cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 12%.
Usually considered a very deadly cancer, lung cancer has a less than 5% survival rate if diagnosed in stage IV.
Concentrate On Whats Really Important:
Reconnect with family and friends. Really, this is the most important thing you can do. Make those connections. Keep those connections. It’s work but really it’s our purpose.
Don’t forget the connection you have with Gia, God, Spirit, Mother Earth, whatever you may wish to call it or how you perceive it. You are a part of something bigger Now is the time to start cultivating that relationship the one that will see you beyond this physical world.
Spend a few minutes every day searching out what that means to you. I take communion with trees. Really. I feel best sitting in the warmth of the forest among friends. I feel connected. Sadly, I live in a climate that drives me indoors for a large part of the year but I still manage to find my connection even if not ideal.
Live! You are not dead yet. MaineRottweilers
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Myth #: My Treatment Will Be The Same As Those Of All Other Patients With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Fact: No two breast cancers are alike, notes Stearns. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Your treatment plan and prognosis will depend on a number of factors, including what your tumor looks like under the microscope, whether its a new cancer or a recurrence, your age and overall health, and what treatments youve used before. Your treatment plan is also likely to change over time as the cancer adapts and builds resistance to medicines. The bottom line is that every person’s path will be different.
Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Did you know approximately 30% of early stage breast cancer survivors will have a recurrence as metastatic disease, even after completing successful treatment?
4 years and 5 months ago I was fighting to finish my brutal chemo infusions. I was only weeks away from completion. All while mothering a one year old and three year old. My marriage was thrown this Everest of an obstacle only 6 years in. We were building our life together, now it felt like it was all falling apart.
But we had hope. We were doing all the right things. We listened to what the doctors said, we followed their orders.
In the back of my head I always feared cancer would return.
People would say, you beat it!You are cancer free!You are in remission! And I would cringe inside, knowing once you are diagnosed with breast cancer, it never really goes away.
Now I fully believe in divine healing, I believe God can make my cancer disappear.
But, I also believe He can use my cancer, use my battle, use my experience, use my perspective, use my voice to reach people. To bring more to His kingdom.
And I fully rest and trust in His plan for my life whether that includes healing on earth or healing in Heaven.
Fast forward 4 years, ready to celebrate 4 years of being free of cancer and my worst fear, the fear that had been eating at me every day since my initial diagnosis happened.
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Myth #: You Can’t Treat Metastatic Breast Cancer
Fact: Unlike breast cancer that remains in the breast or nearby lymph nodes, with metastatic breast cancer, you cant get rid of all the cancer that has spread to other organs. But that doesnt mean it cant be treated, says Vered Stearns, MD, the codirector of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. There are a number of medications that can slow or stop the progression of the disease and extend patients lives for many years, possibly even a decade or more, she says. Your treatment plan will be guided by the biology of the tumor , your age, where the cancer has spread, and your symptoms. While local therapies, such as surgery and radiation, are sometimes used, metastatic breast cancer is typically treated with systemic medications, such as hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy, according to the American Cancer Society.
Abemaciclib Palbociclib And Ribociclib And Hormone Therapy
The CDK4/6 inhibitors FDA-approved for metastatic breast cancer treatment are:
CDK4 and CDK6 are enzymes important in cell division. CDK4/6 inhibitors are a class of drugs designed to interrupt the growth of cancer cells.
Although the CDK4/6 inhibitors abemaciclib, palbociclib and ribociclib have not been compared directly to one another, studies show similar results with each drug .
A CDK4/6 inhibitor in combination with hormone therapy can be used to treat hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancers. Compared to treatment with hormone therapy alone, this combination can give people more time before the cancer spreads and increase overall survival .
The CDK4/6 inhibitor abemaciclib may also be used alone to treat hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative cancers that have progressed during past hormone therapy and chemotherapy .
Abemaciclib, palbociclib and ribociclib are pills.
The table below lists some possible side effects for CDK4/6 inhibitors.
For a summary of research studies on the use of CDK4/6 inhibitors in treating metastatic breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
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You Can Find Fulfillment In Life
Yes, it’s a shock. Acknowledge that, mourn, cry, and then make a plan. Seek a second opinion if you feel doubt or uncertainty. Now, know you will not die tomorrow or next month. No one knows when you will die and if your medical oncologist gives you an expiration date, find a new one!
Do not give away your possessions enjoy them. As a matter of fact, buy that new winter coat or pretty earrings if you want! Travel if that’s your thing, but buy insurance that covers pre-existing conditions. Quit your job if it doesn’t bring you joy, but keep working if you love your work. Yes, for the majority of us, stage IV will shorten our lives, but don’t put your foot in the grave even one minute before you have to! Even with pain or side effects of treatment, you can find fulfillment in life. exbrnxgrl
If you are newly diagnosed with MBC, join the conversation with others who share your experience in the Breastcancer.org Community.
Do What You Love And Love What You Do
I recently retired from my job in corporate America because I didn’t feel I was living my life to the fullest, says Karla Baptiste, a speaker and author from DeSoto, TX. That part of my life had become mundane and life is too short for monotony. Now, I have more time to write books, do speaking engagements, and pursue health advocacy.
Diagnosis And Treatment Planning
A complete diagnosis usually takes more than one doctors visit. It may involve scans, blood tests, and a biopsy. Your doctor will work with a team to figure out:
- If you have breast cancer or another kind of cancer
- The type and subtype of breast cancer
- The places in your body it has spread
If you had breast cancer in the past, your doctor will confirm whether it is the same type of breast cancer as before. Breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body is still breast cancer. The site where the cancer is found may affect your treatment options.
The process of learning about treatment options and choosing one is called treatment planning. You will be asked to make choices at the start of treatment and again along the way. Here are some steps you can take to feel more in control and better able to make decisions that are right for you.
Look for a doctor with expertise in metastatic breast cancer. Consider communication style, approach to treatment, location, insurance, and the availability of clinical trials, among other factors.
Keep a list of questions. Ask about the best way to get answers to your questions. Bring a friend or family member to visits to listen and take notes. Tell your team about any symptoms or side effects.
Getting a Second Opinion
Learn more about the steps you can take to get a second opinion downloading our Metastatic Breast Cancer book.