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Can You Live With Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Living With Secondary Breast Cancer

Living With Stage 4 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.

Our information on living with secondary breast cancer addresses the emotional, practical and physical effects of a diagnosis.

Advanced Cancer That Progresses During Treatment

Treatment for advanced breast cancer can often shrink the cancer or slow its growth , but after a time, it tends to stop working. Further treatment options at this point depend on several factors, including previous treatments, where the cancer is located, a woman’s menopause status, general health, desire to continue getting treatment, and whether the hormone receptor status and HER2 status have changed on the cancer cells.

How Long Can A Person With Stage 4 Breast Cancer Survive

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Research Advances And A Personalized Approach Helped One Michigan Woman Flip The Script On Stage 4 Breast Cancer

When Heather Jose was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, she set a goal: Live to see her 14-month-old daughter go to kindergarten.

That day came and went long ago in fact, she recently saw daughter Sydney off to her sophomore year of college.

A cancer survivor for nearly 19 years, Jose wants people to know that living with advanced cancer is possible, and more women will have the chance as treatment options expand.

Jose was only 26 when she received her diagnosis in 1998 in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. Her breast cancer had spread into her bones. A surgeon was grim about stage 4 treatment success statistics: He told her to get her affairs in order.

She made an appointment at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center for another opinion.

Dr. Merajver called me the next afternoon. The conversation was completely different, Jose says. She talked to me for a very long time about my life, my husband and my daughter. At the end, she told me to drink green tea and eat vegetables, and wed start killing cancer on Monday.

Coping With Advanced Breast Cancer

Please Help Me Survive Stage 4 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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Plans Have To Be Flexible

My energy is unpredictable, says Sendelbach. I literally never know how Im going to feel from one day to the next. Its so hard to make plans because if I say yes to something thats two weeks away, the day of, I could wake up and feel absolutely horrible.

When someone with metastatic breast cancer declines an invitation or cancels at the last minute, its most likely not because they dont want to be there. Says Sendelbach, We physically cant do it.

Silberman agrees. Ive been going through for a long time, she says, and Ive had friends drop away. Because of MBC and my treatments, its hard for me to be reliable.

How Long Can Someone Live With Stage 4 Cancer

Doctors usually describe a persons outlook using the 5-year survival rate. These are calculated based on data from thousands of other people with a similar cancer at a similar stage.

The original location of the cancer determines its type. Survival rates vary, depending on the type of cancer and how far it has spread within the body.

Below, we describe the survival rates for some of the most common forms of cancer in stage 4:

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The Advocate Steps Up

She didn’t start out as an advocate for Black patients with cancer. Jamil Rivers was a breast cancer patient herself, and doing well. Other patients would drop by the chemo infusion room and ask her for advice.

“They were saying, ‘Hey, you seem to be doing OK. You know, can you share what you know?’ And then it just kind of grew from there” into a nonprofit Rivers founded, called the Chrysalis Initiative.

“I would always hear that the reason why Black women were dying at such a higher rate from breast cancer was social and biological differences and poverty and all these different rationales,” Rivers says. “But then, as I started finding out more, I found that the biggest contributor was actually the racism.”

Dont Ignore The Health Of The Rest Of Your Body

90210 star Shannen Doherty opens up about stage 4 breast cancer

Lots of times, we tend to only focus on our cancer symptoms or think that every symptom is cancer-related. However, Ive found that its important to still maintain a relationship with my primary care provider. My primary care provider helps keep me up to date on vaccinations and monitors my preventive screenings, such as colonoscopies and Pap tests. They also evaluate me for conditions such as arthritis, blood pressure, and diabetes. In my case, the medications I take for cancer have now, after long-term treatment, increased my risk of high blood pressure. Because of that, I now must take a low-dose blood pressure medication, which will help prevent me from having a blood clot, heart attack, or stroke.

Protect the health of the rest of your body. Always get your preventive health screenings and manage current and future health conditions.

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Many Women Live For Decades With Metastatic Breast Cancer

A stage 4 diagnosis is not an instant death sentence, says Renee Sendelbach, 40, from Austin, Texas, who was diagnosed seven years ago, when she learned that her breast cancer had moved into her lungs, bones, and lymph nodes.

Ive had metastatic breast cancer for five years and Im still kicking, says Susan Rosen, 53, from Franklin, Massachusetts.

According to a 2017 article in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 34 percent of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer have been living with the disease for five years or longer.

The goal of treatment is to keep patients on their feet as long as possible so that they can continue to do what they want to do, says Gretchen Kimmick, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina.

In recent years, treatment for breast cancer has vastly improved, largely because doctors are able to more accurately target therapy to the type of breast cancer a woman has. The discovery of the HER2 protein and medicines that block it has revolutionized treatment for women with cancers that overexpress this protein, Dr. Kimmick says. This cancer was pretty deadly two decades ago, and now we are starting to debate if weve cured it in some women.

Support For Living With Secondary Breast Cancer In The Liver

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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Treatment For Secondary Breast Cancer

A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team .

Your doctor and nurse will talk to you about the best treatment for you. They will also ask you about your preferences. They will talk to you about things to consider when making treatment decisions. You may have some treatments as part of a clinical trial.

Secondary breast cancer can be controlled, often for many years, but it cannot be cured. Because of new and improved treatments, women with secondary breast cancer are living for longer. The aim of treatment is to control the cancer, improve the symptoms and help you to live well for longer.

The treatment you have will depend on:

  • where the cancer is in your body
  • if it is ER positive or HER2 positive
  • previous breast cancer treatment you have had.

You may have a combination of treatments.

Treatments for secondary breast cancer include:

Palliative And Supportive Care

Stage 4 breast cancer symptoms and prognosis

Palliative and supportive care focuses on symptom control and support. Its an extremely important part of the care and treatment for many people with secondary breast cancer and can significantly improve quality of life for them and their families.

People often think of palliative care as being associated with end-of-life treatment. However, many people value having it at any stage of their illness, alongside their medical treatment, to help prevent and relieve symptoms such as pain or fatigue. It can also help with the emotional, social and spiritual effects of secondary breast cancer.

You can be referred by your specialist team, GP or breast care nurse depending on your situation. Some people may be able to refer themselves.

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Finding Social And Emotional Support

Its critical to find a strong source of social support, whether its your friends and family, or a support group with other people with breast cancer. While the journey is challenging, you dont have to navigate stage 4 breast cancer alone.

Ask your healthcare provider if theres an in-person support group where you receive treatments. You can also find online and social media groups to join.

Your healthcare provider can also provide more information about the specifics of your cancer, treatment options, and support programs in your area. If youre not sure where to look for an in-person group, a counselor or social worker can also help.

How Long Do People Live With Secondary Breast Cancer

One of the first things many people with secondary breast cancer want to know is how long theyve got to live.

Life expectancy is difficult to predict as each persons case is different and no two cancers progress in the same way. However, as treatments have improved, more and more people are living longer after a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer.

Your specialist will have an understanding of the likely progression of your secondary breast cancer and can talk to you about what you might expect. You may worry if their answers are vague but it isnt possible to accurately predict how each persons cancer will respond to treatment.

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What Treatments May I Be Offered

Treatment for secondary breast cancer in the liver aims to relieve symptoms and slow down the growth of the cancer.

Treatments can be given alone or in combination.

When making decisions about how best to treat you, your treatment team will consider factors such as:

  • how extensive the cancer is within the liver
  • whether the cancer has spread to other organs
  • any symptoms you have
  • what treatment youve had in the past
  • the features of the cancer
  • whether youve been through the menopause
  • your general health

Your specialist should discuss any recommendations for treatment with you and take into account your wishes. Theyll talk with you about your options, explain what the aim of your treatment will be and help you weigh up the potential benefits against the possible side effects you may have.

Hormone therapy is used to treat breast cancers that are oestrogen receptor positive.

If you had a biopsy or surgery for primary breast cancer, the tissue removed will have been tested to see if it is ER+. However, in some people the oestrogen receptors change during the development of secondary breast cancer. Because of this, your doctor may discuss performing a biopsy to retest for hormone receptors.

What Are The Signs That Death Is Approaching And What Can The Caregiver Do To Make The Person Comfortable During This Time

Stage 4 Breast Cancer — Memorial Breast Cancer Center

Certain signs and symptoms can help a caregiver anticipate when death is near. They are described below, along with suggestions for managing them. However, each persons experience at the end of life is different. What may happen to one person may not happen for another. Also, the presence of one or more of these symptoms doesnt necessarily mean that the patient is close to death. A member of the health care team can give family members and caregivers more information about what to expect.

Withdrawal from friends and family:

  • People often focus inward during the last weeks of life. This doesnt necessarily mean that patients are angry or depressed or that they dont love their caregivers. It could be caused by decreased oxygen to the brain, decreased blood flow, or mental preparation for dying.
  • They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy, such as favorite TV shows, friends, or pets.
  • Caregivers can let the patient know they are there for support. The person may be aware and able to hear, even if they are unable to respond. Experts advise that giving them permission to let go may be helpful. If they do feel like talking, they may want to reminisce about joys and sorrows, or tie up loose ends.

Sleep changes:

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Systemic Treatments For Stage Iv Breast Cancer

Treatment often continues until the cancer starts growing again or until side effects become unacceptable. If this happens, other drugs might be tried. The types of drugs used for stage IV breast cancer depend on the hormone receptor status, the HER2 status of the cancer, and sometimes gene mutations that might be found.

What Is Stage 2 Breast Cancer

Also known as invasive breast cancer, the tumor in this stage measures between 2 cm to 5 cm, or the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer. Stage 2 breast cancer indicates a slightly more advanced form of the disease. At this stage, the cancer cells have spread beyond the original location and into the surrounding breast tissue, and the tumor is larger than in stage 1 disease. However, stage 2 means the cancer has not spread to a distant part of the body.

At stage 2, a tumor may be detected during a breast self-exam as a hard lump within the breast. Breast self-exams and routine screening are always important and can often lead to early diagnosis, when the cancer is most treatable.

Stage 2 breast cancer is divided into two categories:

Stage 2A: One of the following is true:

  • There is no tumor within the breast, but cancer has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, or
  • The tumor in the breast is 2 cm or smaller and cancer has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, or
  • The tumor in the breast measures 2 cm to 5 cm but cancer has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage 2B: One of the following is true:

  • The tumor measures 2 cm to 5 cm and cancer has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, or
  • The tumor is larger than 5 cm but cancer has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

At stage 2, TNM designations help describe the extent of the disease. Most commonly, stage 2 breast cancer is described as:

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What Are Cancer Survival Statistics

A key part of making a prognosis is looking at survival rates. These are numbers researchers collect over many years in people with the same type of cancer. These numbers are based on large groups of people. For breast cancer, there are two main measurements:

Breast cancer survivalrates reflect the percentage of women who are alive 5 years or longer after their diagnosis. This means the numbers are based on women who were found to have breast cancer at least 5 years ago. Advances in diagnosing and treating cancer have led to steadily improving survival rates, so the outlook for women diagnosed today is likely better.

Relative survival rates donât take into account the cause of death. Theyâre a measure of the percentage of people with cancer who have lived for a certain time after diagnosis, compared with people who did not have cancer.

Is Stage 4 Breast Cancer Painful

Surviving Stage 4 Breast Cancer: Is It Possible?

Stage iv metastatic breast cancer can be painful for patients similar to other cancer types. Because the prognosis of metastatic cancer is often less favorable, many patients question is stage 4 breast cancer painful? It depends on several factors such as, where the cancer has and what type of cells are being affected. For example, if the cancer has spread to the bone, patients may experience persistent bone pain. Palliative treatments can be given to patients to help relieve symptoms such as pain. These treatments can include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation therapy.

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