Is Stage 4 Breast Cancer Curable
Theres currently no cure for stage 4 breast cancer, but with treatments it can be kept under control, often for years at a time.
People with metastatic breast cancer need to receive treatments for the rest of their lives. If a certain treatment stops being effective, another treatment regimen may be tried.
Wait What Men Get Breast Cancer Too
It came as a heavy jolt when Michael Kovarikwas first diagnosed in 2007.
“I remember just like, sitting down and going, wait a minute, wait a minute. Women get breast cancer. Men don’t get breast cancer. So, it was very much a shock,” he told me when we first spoke. “There were people that didn’t quite believe it at first. And so, it was a way of educating people a lot at the beginning. But I think that made it more real to me.”
He had a recurrence in 2010 and was diagnosed with metastatic disease in 2015.
“The fatigue is unreal,” Kovarik said. “I’m struggling right now, but hopefully things will get better.”
He became active in the Male Breast Cancer Coalition and MBC Alliance and, like Jamil Rivers, in Metavivor. Metastatic disease is the primary lethal form of breast cancer, yet only 7% of breast cancer research is devoted to curing it.
“We get answers to stopping this disease,” Kovarik said when we last spoke in August.Michael Kovarik died from MBC on Sept. 22, 2021.He is survived by his long-time partner, Tim Watkins.
Where Do These Numbers Come From
The American Cancer Society relies on information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute , to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.
The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for breast cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers by AJCC TNM stages . Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:
- Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the breast.
- Regional: The cancer has spread outside the breast to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver or bones.
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Will I Die Of Breast Cancer
This is a difficult question to answer early in your cancer care but it is still worth asking. Many people just diagnosed with cancer have no idea how much of a risk to their life their unique situation poses. Most breast cancers carry a low risk of recurrence, especially early-stage cancers. The answer is usually reassuring.
Move As Often As You Can Whenever You Can
This study comes at a time when we already have national and international physical activity recommendations for cancer survivors, for the purpose of reducing the risk of recurrence and mortality, Dr. Schmitz said, and the new findings reinforce these recommendations.
Its important to keep in mind, however, that physical activity is not the only factor that determines whether breast cancer will recur, and it certainly is not the only determinant of death. Its just one piece of the puzzle, Dr. Elena said.
We dont want someone to think, If I exercise enough, I wont have a recurrence, she continued. But if you can add physical activity into your day, it is likely to influence many types of health outcomes for breast cancer survivors. That includes quality of life, anxiety, fatigue, and the ability to tolerate treatment, as well as the risk of dying.
The bottom-line message for breast cancer survivors, Dr. Elena concluded, is Move as often as you can, when you can.
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How Long Do Breast Cancer Survivors Live
Scientists use relative survival rates to help people with breast cancer learn about their outlook.
For example, the 5-year survival rate indicates how many people with breast cancer are still alive 5 years after getting a diagnosis compared with people without breast cancer.
Such survival rates are estimates that scientists develop using data on breast cancer. Some breast cancer tumors have characteristics that make them more treatable than others, which affects a persons outlook.
What Is Stage 3 Breast Cancer
Also known as locally advanced breast cancer, the tumor in this stage of breast cancer is more than 2 inches in diameter across and the cancer is extensive in the underarm lymph nodes or has spread to other lymph nodes or tissues near the breast. Stage 3 breast cancer is a more advanced form of invasive breast cancer. At this stage, the cancer cells have usually not spread to more distant sites in the body, but they are present in several axillary lymph nodes. The tumor may also be quite large at this stage, possibly extending to the chest wall or the skin of the breast.
Stage 3 breast cancer is divided into three categories:
Stage 3A: One of the following is true:
- No tumor is found in the breast, but cancer is present in axillary lymph nodes that are attached to either other or other structures, or cancer may be found in the lymph nodes near the breast bone, or
- The tumor is 2 cm or smaller. Cancer has spread to axillary lymph nodes that are attached to each other or other structures, or cancer may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone, or
- The tumor is 2 cm to 4 cm in size. Cancer has spread to axillary lymph nodes that are attached to each other or to other structures, or cancer may have spread to lymph nodes near the breast bone, or
- The tumor is larger than 5 cm. Cancer has spread to axillary lymph nodes that may be attached to each other or to other structures, or cancer may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone.
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How Does Staging Relate To Types Of Breast Cancer
In addition to cancer stage, doctors will determine the tumor grade and subtype.
Tumors are graded on a scale of 1 to 3, based on how abnormal the cells appear compared to normal cells. The higher the grade, the more aggressive the cancer, meaning that it tends to be growing quickly.
The subtype is important because treatment and outlook will vary depending on which subtype of breast cancer that you have. Subtypes include:
Life After Breast Cancer Treatment
Youre finally done with your breast cancer treatment. Its a relief and a time to rejoice. You may expect your life to go back to the way it was before, but instead of returning to your old normal, you may have to adjust to a new one.
With todays advanced treatment and early detection, breast cancer survivors can live a long and full life after breast cancer treatment. Its estimated that there are 3.9 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
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Getting A Breast Biopsy
In a breast biopsy, the doctor takes out small pieces of breast tissue to check them for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if you have breast cancer.
There are many types of biopsies. Ask your doctor what kind you will need. Each type has risks and benefits. The choice of which type to use depends on your own case.
Sometimes, surgery is needed to take out all or part of the lump to find out if its cancer. This is often done in a hospital using local anesthesia . You might also be given medicine to make you sleepy.
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Living With Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer affects people in different ways. Some women who are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer may experience a reduction in their overall health as a result of disease progression and/or the resulting side effects of their treatment. If you are experiencing any symptoms that concern you or if symptoms get worse, it is important that you discuss these with your doctor. In addition, while there is no strong evidence that a special diet will improve the prognosis of metastatic breast cancer, healthy lifestyle choices can help you to feel your best, manage symptoms and improve your overall wellbeing.
Many women also find the uncertainty of their situation difficult to manage. Some people cope best by living in the present and not thinking too much about the future. Other people prefer to plan ahead, which gives them a greater sense of control. The best approach is the one that works best for you.
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Treatment Of Stage Iii Breast Cancers
Sometimes large breast cancers invade into muscles or attach to major arteries, veins or nerve trunks, which makes them impossible to surgically remove completely.
So, for these patients, the treatment usually starts with radiation or chemo to try to shrink it first, before surgery. But even a large tumor that has not attached itself onto muscle can, sometimes, be completely removed. There is no direct relationship between tumor size and whether or not it may be treated surgically or not.
Obviously, Stage 3 breast cancers that surgeons can completely remove do tend to have a significantly better prognosis than inoperable stage 3 breast cancers. However, some breast tumors, particularly those that are ER-positive, respond very well to chemotherapy. So well, in fact, that they actually downstage.
So, it is difficult to predict the overall prognosis for stage 3 breast cancer, as it will vary from individual to individual. If the response to chemotherapy is favorable, the overall survival rate is around 72%.
Myth #: When Breast Cancer Travels To The Bone Brain Or Lungs It Then Becomes Bone Cancer Brain Cancer Or Lung Cancer
Not true. Breast cancer is still breast cancer, wherever it travels in the body. However, the characteristics of the cells can change over time. For example, a breast cancer that tested negative for hormone receptors or an abnormal HER2 gene might test positive when it moves to another part of the body, or vice versa . Keep in mind that the cancer cells are trying to survive in the body, so they can change, says Dr. Gupta. We always emphasize rechecking the biology.
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What Are Possible Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy
There are usually no immediate side effects from each radiation treatment given to the breast. Patients do not develop nausea or hair loss on the head from radiation therapy to the breast.
Most patients develop mild fatigue that builds up gradually over the course of therapy. This slowly goes away one to two months following the radiation therapy. Most patients develop dull aches or sharp shooting pains in the breast that may last for a few seconds or minutes. It is rare for patients to need any medication for this. The most common side effect needing attention is skin reaction. Most patients develop reddening, dryness anditching of the skin after a few weeks. Some patients develop substantial irritation.
Skin care recommendations include:
- Keeping the skin clean using gentle soap and warm but not hot water
- Avoiding extreme temperatures while bathing
- Avoiding trauma to the skin and sun exposure
- Avoiding shaving the treatment area with a razor blade
- Avoiding use of perfumes, cosmetics, after-shave or deodorants in the treatment area
- Using only recommended unscented creams or lotions after daily treatment
Additional Markers For Breast Cancer Staging
Additional markers specific to breast cancer will further define your stage, which may be helpful in choosing targeted treatments to fight the cancer.
- ER: The cancer has an estrogen receptor. Estrogen is a hormone, and some cancers have receptors that respond to estrogen.
- PR: The cancer has a progesterone receptor. Progesterone is also a hormone.
- HER2: The cancer makes the protein HER2 .
- G: Grade of cancer refers to how different the cells look from normal. Grade 1 indicates that the cells look fairly normal, while grade 2 cells are growing a little faster, and grade 3 cells look markedly different than normal breast tissue.
These markers, along with the TNM measurements, define your stage.
A cancer recurrence refers to cancer that returns in the same breast, and it requires new staging. This new stage is marked by an R at the end to indicate restaging. If it develops in the other breast, its considered a new cancer.
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Breast Cancer Survivors: Life After The Treatments End
The breast cancer treatments are over. Now what? Here’s how to return to your “new normal.”
Life after breast cancer means returning to some familiar things and also making some new choices.
The song says “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” but when you’ve had breast cancer, you discover that it’s not even over when it’s over.
After a marathon of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment that may last six months to a year, you can hardly wait to get back to a normal life again. But the day of your last radiation treatment or chemotherapy infusion doesn’t mark the end of your journey with breast cancer.
Instead, you’re about to embark on another leg of the trip. This one is all about adjusting to life as a breast cancer survivor. In many ways, it will be a lot like the life you had before, but in other ways, it will be very different. Call it your “new normal.”
From your relationships with your family and your spouse to eating habits and exercise, breast cancer will change your life in ways that last well after treatment ends. How do you fight lingering fatigue? What should you eat to help prevent a breastcancer recurrence? Will you ever have a regular sex life again? These are just a few of the questions that may nag at you as you make the transition from breast cancer treatment to breast cancer survival.
Probability Of Cancer Progression
How long the remission period can last is one of the most frequently asked questions by patients with stage 4 breast cancer. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors that come in.
First, tumors may have a different tendency to grow. Slowly growing tumors mean longer remission and longer life expectancy. Second, age is important. In young patients, cancer tends to be more aggressive and resistant to treatment. Third, the localization of metastases plays an important role. Metastasis to bone or lymphatic tissue is a more prognostic option for treatment than lung, liver, and especially brain damage.
Another very important factor is the tumors responsiveness to the therapy. In women with hormone-positive breast cancer, in which the tumor reacts well to hormone therapy, life expectancy can be 10-15 years, even taking into account the 4th stage of the disease. For comparison, the life expectancy of patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer is only one year.
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What Is Secondary Breast Cancer In The Lung
Secondary breast cancer in the lung happens when breast cancer cells spread to the lung. It can also be known as lung metastases or secondaries in the lung.
Secondary breast cancer in the lung is not the same as cancer that started in the lung.
Usually secondary breast cancer occurs months or years after primary breast cancer. But sometimes its found at the same time as the primary breast cancer, or before the primary breast cancer has been diagnosed. In this situation, the breast cancer has already spread to the other parts of the body such as the lung. This is referred to as de novo metastatic breast cancer, meaning the breast cancer is metastatic from the start.
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Looking At Exercise Over Time
The findings come from the NCI-funded Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle, and Cancer Prognosis study, led by Christine Ambrosone, Ph.D., also of Roswell Park. The study was embedded in a large clinical trial, led by the NCI-funded SWOG Cancer Research Network, that compared different chemotherapy regimens for women with high-risk breast cancer.
The physical activity analysis by Dr. Cannioto and her colleagues included 1,340 patients from the SWOG trial who also enrolled in the DELCaP study. Participants completed questionnaires about the type, frequency, and duration of recreational physical activity they engaged in at four time points: during the month before diagnosis, during treatment, and at 1 and 2 years after study enrollment. Participants were followed for up to 15 years or until death, with a meanfollow-up time of 89 months .
Much, though not all, previous epidemiologic research describing the link between physical activity and cancer outcomes is based on physical activity data collected at only one time point, Dr. Cannioto said.
Using the questionnaire responses, the researchers determined whether participants had met the minimum 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans at each time point. The guidelines recommend that adults engage in at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.
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Coping With A Breast Cancer Recurrence
Finding out that your cancer has come back can cause a mix of emotions. You might feel shocked, angry or frightened.
Its important that you have a chance to ask questions. Your cancer specialist can give you information thats tailored to your individual situation. Your breast care nurse can also be a helpful source of information and support.
Ongoing treatment and an uncertain prognosis can cause you to feel worried and anxious about your future. Theres no easy way to deal with this uncertainty but you might want to get in touch with other people who are going through something similar.
You can exchange tips on coping with uncertainty and side effects of treatment, ask questions, share experiences and talk through concerns on our online Forum.
You can also call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 for information and support, and to find out about Breast Cancer Nows services.