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Can You Live With Metastatic Breast Cancer

More Women Are Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer And Living Longer

How long can you expect to live with metastatic breast cancer?

According to research from the National Cancer Institute , the number of women living with metastatic breast cancer in the United States is increasing at the same time, women with metastatic disease are living longer, especially younger women.

The research was published online on May 18, 2017 by the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Read the abstract of Estimation of the Number of Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer in the United States.

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to parts of the body away from the breast, such as the bones or liver. Metastatic breast cancer is stage IV cancer. A woman can be diagnosed with metastatic disease when first diagnosed. Breast cancer also can come back in a part of the body away from the breast. This is called metastatic recurrence.

“Even though this group of patients with metastatic breast cancer is increasing in size, our findings are favorable,” said Angela Mariotto, Ph.D., chief of the Data Analytics Branch of the Division of Cancer Control and Populations Sciences at the NCI. “This is because, over time, these women are living longer with metastatic breast cancer. Longer survival with metastatic breast cancer means increased needs for services and research. Our study helps to document this need.”

The study compared 5-year survival rates from 1992 to 1994 and from 2005 to 2012:

New Study: Metastatic Breast Cancer And A Decade Of Survivorship

  • New Study: Metastatic Breast Cancer and a Decade of Survivorship

Researchers were pleased to discover that some women with metastatic breast cancer were still alive 10 years after being treated with radiotherapy to the sites where their cancer had spread. The study results are being used to guide treatment decisions at UR Medicines Wilmot Cancer Institute.

The prognosis for metastatic breast cancer is generally poor, so this is remarkable, said corresponding author Michael Milano, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of Radiation Oncology at Wilmot. Ideally, we will want to know what factors predict who will do better.

Metastatic breast cancer means the cancer has spread beyond the original tumor to other parts of the body. Common sites of metastases include the bones, lungs, liver, and brain. For this study, Milano and colleagues investigated the long-term outcomes of 48 patients who had oligometastases, meaning that they only had a few spots of metastatic cancers as opposed to widespread disease.

The standard care for this stage of breast cancer is often hormonal therapy and/or chemotherapy or targeted medications, with radiation considered for symptom control. The use of radiation to prolong survival was not yet a standard option when the

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Treatment Of Breast Cancer

The stage of your breast cancer, how far you have advanced , and how advanced the tumor is all play a part in deciding what kind of treatment you need.

First, your doctor will determine your cancer size, stage, and distance . Then you can discuss your treatment options.

Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. Many people have alternative therapies, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, or hormone replacement therapy.

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Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Metastasis To Liver

Metastatic breast cancer may grow silently in the body while you are completely unaware. Early on in metastatic liver cancer there might not be any signs or symptoms to alert you. As the cancer grows, you may experience liver swelling. This may cause the following symptoms:

  • Bloating of your abdomen
  • Mass on upper right abdomen
  • Fever, chills, sweats
  • Confused thinking

Knowing the early symptoms can help you find and treat breast cancer that has metastasized to the liver early on and slow the progression of the disease.

When Metastatic Cancer Can No Longer Be Controlled

metastatic breast cancer

If you have been told your cancer can no longer be controlled, you and your loved ones may want to discuss end-of-life care. Whether or not you choose to continue treatment to shrink the cancer or control its growth, you can always receive palliative care to control the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Information on coping with and planning for end-of-life care is available in the Advanced Cancer section of this site.

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Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Be Cured

There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. Once the cancer cells have spread to another distant area of the body, its impossible to get rid of them all. However, the right treatment plan can help extend your life and improve its quality.

Metastatic breast cancer treatment aims to shrink tumors, slow their growth and improve your symptoms.

Coping With Advanced Breast Cancer

Being told that you have advanced or metastatic breast cancer may be very confronting or overwhelming. Some women also find the news that their cancer has spread or come back is more devastating than their original diagnosis.

There are many resources available online to help you further understand the meaning of your diagnosis and how to manage the emotional, physical and practical issues arising from metastatic breast cancer. Below are some links where these resources can be accessed:

Connecting and speaking with others who have gone through a similar experience can also be helpful. Cancer Council runs support groups all across Australia which can provide support and information for people with cancer and their families. Groups in each state can be accessed here:

Although support groups can provide a safe place for people to express their feelings amongst others who share a similar experience, some people are more comfortable talking one-on-one, such as with a counsellor, therapist or trained volunteer . Your GP can also refer you to a psychologist, social worker or other trained therapist. Every person is different and it is important to find a healthy support system that works for you.

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What Is Metastatic Cancer

In metastasis, cancer cells break away from where they first formed , travel through the blood or lymph system, and form new tumors in other parts of the body. The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor.

Cancer that spreads from where it started to a distant part of the body is called metastatic cancer. For many types of cancer, it is also called stage IV cancer. The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis.

When observed under a microscope and tested in other ways, metastatic cancer cells have features like that of the primary cancer and not like the cells in the place where the metastatic cancer is found. This is how doctors can tell that it is cancer that has spread from another part of the body.

Metastatic cancer has the same name as the primary cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung is called metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as stage IV breast cancer, not as lung cancer.

Sometimes when people are diagnosed with metastatic cancer, doctors cannot tell where it started. This type of cancer is called cancer of unknown primary origin, or CUP. See the Carcinoma of Unknown Primary page for more information.

What I Wish People Knew About Metastatic Breast Cancer

Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Women with metastatic breast cancer think about fighting cancer very differently than women who don’t have a stage 4 diagnosis. If you have advanced cancer, these women understand what youre going through.

The term metastatic breast cancer describes breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to the bones, liver, brain, or another organ. Even if the cancer is found in another organ, its still referred to as breast cancer and is treated as such.

While metastatic breast cancer is terminal and cannot be cured, because of improved treatments more women are living longer than ever with it. Even so, a lack of information and many misconceptions about this diagnosis persist.

Here are several things you should know about metastatic breast cancer and the women who are living with it.

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The Psychological Impact Of Uncertainty

Although newer therapies can help some patients live longer, clinicians cannot predict how long a treatment is going to be effective for an individual patient. The psychological impact of this uncertainty on patients and their loved ones was a theme of the meeting, said Dr. Temel.

Jamil Rivers, who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer 3 years ago at age 39, spoke at the conference about the uncertainty of living with the disease.

After being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Jamil Rivers started the Chrysalis Initiative, a nonprofit that helps women of color with breast cancer.

When you learn that you have metastatic cancer and see the survival statistics, it can be overwhelming emotionally, said Rivers. And if youre living with metastatic cancer, youre living from treatment to treatment, from scan to scan.

Rivers said that her latest imaging scans had not shown any tumors. But I still have metastatic cancer, she explained. I have to be on some type of treatment to keep that cancer at bay so that it doesnt grow and wreak havoc on my body.

Rivers also described financial challenges related to cancer. She did not tell her employer about her diagnosis so that she could maintain her salary and her familys health insurance, which was through the employer. She continued to work for the year that she received chemotherapy.

Why Does My Provider Need To Test The Metastatic Tumor

Your care team will test the metastases to figure out the biology of the tumor, which can help guide your treatment plan. Providers may test tumors for:

  • Hormone receptor status: If the cancer is hormone receptor-positive, hormonal therapy may be your first treatment.
  • HER2 status: Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 is a protein that is overexpressed on some breast cancer cells. HER2-positive cancer responds to specific HER2-targeted therapies.
  • PIK3CA gene mutation: If a tumor is hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative, your provider may test for this gene mutation. Specific targeted therapies can be used to treat tumors with this mutation.
  • PD-L1 status: Tumors that are hormone receptive-negative and HER2-negative may be tested for PD-L1 status. If the PD-L1 test is positive, you may be recommended to receive a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy.

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What Can I Expect While Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer

Your care team will monitor you every few months to check if the cancer is responding to treatment, and also to see if you are having any side effects. The process of restaging the cancer includes:

  • History/physical exam.
  • Blood tests.
  • Imaging tests, including CTs and bone scan or PET scan.

Before your scans or tests, its normal to feel anxiety. It may help to bring a friend or family member to the appointment with you.

Youve Got This Keep Fighting

Fresh onslaught against breast cancer

Such words imply that I am not fighting hard enough, says Alex Frenzel, advocate for the MD Anderson Advanced Breast Cancer Clinic. Frenzel has been living with Stage IV breast cancer since a recurrence in 2016 after 16 years of remission. We all love the stories of people who beat breast cancer because we need hope. But, she says, the only way to truly beat it is with more research towards the ultimate goal of finding a cure to kill the beast.

Say this instead: You are not alone. Because theres strength in numbers.

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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?

Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer: How I Reinvented Myself

Shonte Drakeford is a 36-year-old Washington, D.C. native, nurse practitioner, United States Army wife, and German Shepherd mama. She was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic triple-positive breast cancer in 2015 that metastasized to her lungs, hip, rib, spine, and lymph nodes. She also has a genetic trait for colon cancer her cancer detection started early at the age of 25. She has been surviving and living a life without fear as positively as possible. You can follow her on .

You must now reinvent yourself.

Those were the words my husband said to me when I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer at the age of 31 on June 17, 2015. Not once did I think that out of all I have been through, cancer would become part of my life story.

I am a part of a few statistics. I am one of the 6% of women who gets metastatic breast cancer as their first diagnosis, which is also called de novo metastatic breast cancer. I am a part of the 27% 5-year survival rate. Hopefully, I wont be a part of the statistic of Black women who have a 40% higher rate of mortality than my white counterparts.

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What Is Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Stage 4 breast cancer is also called metastatic breast cancer or advanced breast cancer. In this stage, cancer that developed in your breast has spread to other areas of your body.

Cancer cells might have traveled through your lymphatic system to your lungs, bones, liver, brain, or other organs.

Stage 4 is the most serious and life threatening stage of breast cancer. Most often, stage 4 breast cancer develops long after a person has first been diagnosed with cancer. In rare cases, the cancer may have progressed to stage 4 at the time a person is first diagnosed.

Facing stage 4 breast cancer can be challenging. But following your doctors recommended treatment plan and practicing healthy lifestyle habits can help to improve your outcome. It may significantly increase your lifespan and improve your quality of life.

Breast Cancer Healthline is a free app for people who have faced a breast cancer diagnosis. The app is available on the App Store and . Download here.

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Support For Living With Secondary Breast Cancer In The Liver

Living well with metastatic breast cancer

Everyones experience of being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer is different, and people cope in their own way.

For many people, uncertainty can be the hardest part of living with secondary breast cancer.

You may find it helpful to talk to someone else whos had a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer.

  • Chat to other people living with secondary breast cancer on our online Forum.
  • Meet other women with a secondary diagnosis and get information and support at a Living with Secondary Breast Cancer meet-up.
  • Live Chat is a weekly private chat room where you can talk about whatevers on your mind.

You can also call Breast Cancer Nows Helpline free on 0808 800 6000.

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What Is The Treatment For Metastatic Breast Cancer

Treatments include many of the same treatments as other stages of breast cancer:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormone therapy For patients diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer that is hormone receptor positive, hormonal therapy may be the first line of defense against the disease. As long as the drugs are keeping the cancer from progressing, the patient may be kept on the medication for some time. If scans show the progression of the cancer, the medical oncologist may switch to another form of hormonal therapy or possibly stop this therapy and pursue a different line of systemic treatment, such as chemotherapy or biologic targeted therapy.
  • Biologic targeted therapy
  • Breast surgery It is controversial whether surgery should be done on the breast in the presence of known metastatic disease. In most cases, however, the knowledge of metastasis is discovered after the breast cancer surgery and other treatment has been performed. The cancer returns as a distant recurrence.

Lifestyle Factors Can Affect Your Risk Of Breast Cancer

For example, overweight women are at greater risk of developing breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising as often as possible can help you lose weight and reduce your risk.

Alcohol abuse also increases your risk. This could be drinking more than two drinks a day or indulging in alcohol.

However, a report that analyzes worldwide has shown that even one drink a day increases the risk of breast cancer. If you drink alcohol, talk to your doctor about the amount they recommend.

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Survival Rate With Metastatic Breast Cancer

Many people wonder about the life expectancy for stage 4 breast cancer . It’s important to note that everyone is different and survival rates vary widely. There are some people who survive many years and even decades with stage 4 disease. At the same time, it’s important to understand that stage 4 breast cancer isn’t curable.

It can be helpful to look at current statistics and consider the many variables that affect life expectancy. While it’s important not to raise false hope, it may help to know the reality that there are some long-term survivors.

Some people want to know the statistics, but many don’t. If you’re living with stage 4 breast cancer, there is absolutely no requirement that you know the prognosis. The information provided here is only for those who truly wish to know what the current research iseven this research has many limitations.


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