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Can You Survive Stage 4 Breast Cancer

What Is The Chance I Could Die In The Next 5 Years

Stage 4 Breast Cancer Diet For Survival

The average 5-year survival rate for all people with breast cancer is 89%. The 10-year rate is 83%, and the 15-year rate is 78%. If the cancer is located only in the breast , the 5-year survival rate is 99%. More than 70% of breast cancers are diagnosed at an Early Stage.

All survival statistics are primarily based on the stage of breast cancer when diagnosed. Some of the other important factors are also listed below that affect survival.

Stage 0 breast cancer can be also described as a pre-cancer. If you have DCIS you can be quite confident you will do well. DCIS does not spread to other organs. What can be concerning is when an invasive cancer grows back in the area of a prior lumpectomy for DCIS. This type of local recurrence does carry a risk to your life. Luckily, this does not happen frequently. Also, be aware that those who have had DCIS in the past are at a higher risk for developing an entirely new, invasive breast cancer. Take our video lesson on Non-Invasive DCIS to learn more.

Stage I invasive breast cancer has an excellent survival rate. The chance of dying of Stage I breast cancer within five years of diagnosis is 1 to 5% if you pursue recommended treatments.

Stage II breast cancer is also considered an early stage of breast cancer. There is a slightly increased risk to your life versus a Stage I breast cancer. Altogether, the risk of Stage II breast cancer threatening your life in the next 5 years is about 15%.

Local Or Regional Treatments For Stage Iv Breast Cancer

Although systemic drugs are the main treatment for stage IV breast cancer, local and regional treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, or regional chemotherapy are sometimes used as well. These can help treat breast cancer in a specific part of the body, but they are very unlikely to get rid of all of the cancer. These treatments are more likely to be used to help prevent or treat symptoms or complications from the cancer.

Radiation therapy and/or surgery may also be used in certain situations, such as:

  • When the breast tumor is causing an open wound in the breast
  • To treat a small number of metastases in a certain area, such as the brain
  • To help prevent bone fractures
  • When an area of cancer spread is pressing on the spinal cord
  • To treat a blood vessel blockage in the liver
  • To provide relief of pain or other symptoms

In some cases, regional chemo may be useful as well.

If your doctor recommends such local or regional treatments, it is important that you understand their goalwhether it is to try to cure the cancer or to prevent or treat symptoms.

How Long Can Someone Live With Stage 4 Cancer

Doctors usually give a prognosis for cancer in terms of an estimated survival rate over 5 years. These survival rates are a rough guide based on data from thousands of other people with a similar cancer and stage.

Survival rates vary depending on the location or type of cancer. Despite how far cancer spreads, doctors will still refer to the type of cancer by where it started.

The stage 4 survival rates for some of the most common forms of cancers include the following:

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Is Stage 4 Cancer Always Terminal

More severe cancers are more likely to be terminal. However, that is never a certainty. For example, the American Cancer Society say the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer that spreads to distant body parts is 27%, or 86% when it only spreads locally.

Determining the severity of cancer and its stage is a complex process. Doctors are still learning about all the factors that affect how cancer develops and affects the body.

Can Stage 4 Breast Cancer Go Into Remission

What is Stage 4 Breast Cancer? Here

Stage 4 breast cancer can go into remission, meaning that it isnt detected in imaging or other tests. Pathological complete remission indicates a lack of cancer cells in tissues removed after surgery or biopsy.

But its rare to take tissue samples while treating stage 4 breast cancer. This could mean that although treatment has been effective, it hasnt completely destroyed the cancer.

Advances in stage 4 breast cancer treatments are helping to increase the length of remission.

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What Is Stage Iv Breast Cancer

Stage IV is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. It has spread to nearby lymph nodes and to distant parts of the body beyond the breast. This means it possibly involves your organs such as the lungs, liver, or brain or your bones.

Breast cancer may be stage IV when it is first diagnosed, or it can be a recurrence of a previous breast cancer that has spread.

What Doesn’t Affect Survival

Just as there are factors associated with a better or worse prognosis, there are some factors that do not appear to make a big difference. These are generally less understood by the general public:

  • Aggressiveness of treatment
  • Having a positive attitude

The goal of treatment for metastatic breast cancer is often very different than that of early-stage disease, and this can raise anxiety among patients and loved ones of patients. With early-stage breast cancer, the goal is usually to be aggressive in order to reduce the risk that the cancer will come back.

In contrast, with stage 4 disease, the goal is usually to use the minimum amount of treatment possible to control the disease . Studies have found that more aggressive treatment does not improve survival rates but does reduce quality of life.

While having a good attitude may improve your sense of well-being, it has not been shown to affect survival rates. In fact, holding in negative emotions in order to appear positive may be detrimental to your health in general.

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I Have To Prioritize And Try Not To Sweat The Small Stuff

For Sendelbach, each week begins with a list of her priorities. Obviously, getting to my doctors appointments is very important, she says. But if the clothes arent folded, is that a dire situation? Absolutely not!

Sendelbach has learned to make compromises: If her husband and son have to pick up their clean clothes from the couch, she can live with that.

I have learned, she says, to look at every situation and ask if this is going to truly make a difference in my day or my familys day for better or worse. If the answer is no, then that task might be left undone.

It wasnt always this way for Sendelbach, though. When she was first diagnosed with cancer, her son was just a year old and she had been married for only two and a half years. You know how it is when you first have a baby if everything isnt perfect, then the world is falling apart! she laughs. Now, to us we ate, were all still alive, the house is acceptable if were good, its all okay.

Progression While Being Treated With Hormone Therapy

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For hormone receptor-positive cancers that were being treated with hormone therapy, switching to another type of hormone therapy sometimes helps. For example, if either letrozole or anastrozole were given, using exemestane, possibly with everolimus , may be an option. Another option might be using fulvestrant or an aromatase inhibitor , along with a CDK inhibitor. If the cancer has a PIK3CA mutation and has grown while on an aromatase inhibitor, fulvestrant with alpelisib might be considered. If the cancer is no longer responding to any hormone drugs, chemotherapy is usually the next step.

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The Challenges Of Living With Cancer

Living with stage IV cancer is challenging. The challenges are different for everyone, but they can include:

  • Feeling upset that the cancer came back. You might feel hopeless, angry, sad, or like no one understands what you are going through, even family.
  • Worrying that treatment will not help and the cancer will get worse.
  • Dealing with tests, doctors appointments, and decisions.
  • Talking with family and friends about the cancer.
  • Needing help with daily activities if you feel exhausted or have side effects from treatment.
  • Finding emotional and spiritual support.
  • Coping with the cost of more treatment. Even if you have insurance, it might not cover everything..

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Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Go Into Remission

Metastatic breast cancer may never go away completely. But treatment can control its spread. Cancer may even go into remission at some points. This means you have fewer signs and symptoms of cancer.

A treatment break may be considered in certain situations, including if remission occurs or if someone is experiencing intolerable side effects. A pause in treatment can help you feel your best and improve your quality of life.

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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.

Its Never Too Late To Exercise

What is Stage 4 Breast Cancer? Here

Exercise is important for your overall mental and physical health. Since fatigue is often a symptom associated with stage 4 breast cancer, it can help to plan your exercise during your most energetic time of day.

Consistency is key. Its better to exercise in small amounts every day than to follow an extreme pattern of occasional intense activity between long periods of inactivity.

While there are potential benefits to exercise when you have stage 4 cancer, its important to talk to your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.

If your blood counts are low or your electrolyte levels are imbalanced, most healthcare providers wont recommend exercising because you could put yourself at risk for further harm.

Also, your healthcare provider may recommend avoiding public places, like gyms, because of your risk for germ exposure.

Safety is always a concern when you have stage 4 breast cancer. Bleeding and risks of injury are important considerations.

Some women experience balance and foot numbness problems due to their treatments and fatigue. If this is the case, its best to do exercises that put you at less risk for falls. An example could be riding a stationary bicycle instead of running on a treadmill.

There might not be a direct link between exercise and stage 4 breast cancer survival rates, but you can reap other benefits from regular exercise.

For example, it may help you:

  • lose excess body fat
  • improve your quality of life
  • reduce side effects from treatment

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How Quickly Breast Cancer Develops

You may have heard remarks that cancer has been present for five years before it is diagnosed, and this may sometimes be true.

The actual time it takes for breast cancer to grow from a single cancer cell to a cancerous tumor is unknown, as estimates based on doubling time assume that this is constant throughout the duration of tumor growth.

If doubling time were constant, cancer with a doubling time of 200 days would take 20 years to develop into a detectable tumor, and a doubling time of 100 days would take 10 years to be evident on exam.

In contrast, a breast tumor with a doubling time of 20 days would take only 2 years to develop.

Since the majority of studies have found the average doubling time to be between 50 days and 200 days, itâs likely that most breast cancers that are diagnosed began at least 5 years earlier .

Lymphocytes In Metastatic Ibc

We performed comprehensive immune phenotyping by multi-parameter flow cytometry on fresh peripheral blood samples from each of the IBC patients and healthy controls. Seventy-two immune parameters were compared between IBC and healthy donors by Wilcoxon rank-sum test. The absolute counts of T cells , B cells , helper T cells , cytotoxic T cells , and natural killer cells in blood were also determined, and median values are shown in Table . IBC patients with metastatic disease had a significantly lower absolute lymphocyte count than healthy female donors . The absolute number of total NK cells in the peripheral blood of IBC patients was also lower than in healthy donors , which paralleled reductions in absolute numbers of B cells and T cells . The five IBC patients with TN disease exhibited some of the most extreme lymphopenia with particularly low levels of T cells . It is also worth noting that lymphocyte counts from the two patients that did not receive chemotherapy treatment were similar to other IBC patients .

Table 2 The median number±standard deviation of lymphocytes per l is indicated for 14 stage IV metastatic IBC patients and 11 healthy donors as assessed using BD Trucount assays

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What Tumor Factors Threaten My Life More

There are important tumor biology factors not well reflected in survival statistics by breast cancer stage. Below we list a few important factors that carry a higher risk to life beyond just the stage of cancer. You must ask your surgeon or medical oncologist to explain your receptor status and give you a copy of your biopsy pathology report.

Triple Negative Receptor breast cancer

Triple negative breast cancer is considered a more aggressive breast cancer. Invariably it does require chemotherapy. If you have triple negative breast cancer the risk of dying is higher than the standard statistics usually quoted for a particular stage of breast cancer . Learn more about Triple Negative Breast Cancer with our video lesson

HER2-Positive breast cancer

HER2-positive breast cancers are also more aggressive tumors. But the good news is that we now have incredibly effective, targeted chemotherapy and immunotherapy for HER2-positive cancers. Our video lesson covers HER2-Positive Breast Cancer in more detail .

Breast Cancer at a Young Age

Women younger than 40 have a higher chance of being diagnosed with a more advanced stage breast cancer. Also, the specific cancer type younger women develop has a higher chance of being more aggressive . As a result, age is a relative risk factor for survival.

Untreated breast cancer

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When Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Occur

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Most often, metastatic breast cancer arises months or years after a person has completed treatment for early or locally advanced breast cancer. This is sometimes called a distant recurrence.

Some people have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed . This is called de novo metastatic breast cancer.

Komen Perspectives

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What Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Metastatic Breast Cancer

If youve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, ask your provider:

  • What are my treatment options?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • What side effects can I expect?
  • Will complementary therapy help me feel better?
  • What if I want to stop treatment?
  • How can I feel my best during treatment?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Metastatic breast cancer is advanced breast cancer. Providers classify it as stage 4 breast cancer. It happens when cancer cells, often left behind after previous breast cancer treatment, start to spread to other parts of the body. While there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, treatment can prolong your life and help you feel better. There are many medications available, so if one treatment isnt working, your care team can try a different approach. If you notice any symptoms or dont feel your best, especially if youve undergone breast cancer treatment in the past, talk to your healthcare provider.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/14/2021.

References

Why Does Metastatic Breast Cancer Happen

Most often, metastatic cancer occurs because treatment didnt destroy all the cancer cells. Sometimes, a few cells remain dormant, or are hidden and undetectable. Then, for reasons providers dont fully understand, the cells begin to grow and spread again.

De novo metastatic breast cancer means that at the time of initial diagnosis, the breast cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. In the absence of treatment, the cancer spreads.

There is nothing you can do to keep breast cancer from metastasizing. And metastatic breast cancer doesnt happen because of something you did.

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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.

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