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.
Progression While Being Treated With Hormone Therapy
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.
For Family And Friends
Caring for a loved one with stage 4 breast cancer has special challenges as well. Fortunately, organizations such as CancerCare now offer support groups design for loved ones who are caring for someone with cancer. In addition to caring for yourself , it’s helpful to learn about metastatic breast cancer.
Common things that people learn about cancer usually refer to an early-stage disease, and myths about metastatic breast cancer can be painful for those living with advanced disease. For example, one of the things not to say to someone with metastatic breast cancer is “When will you be done with treatment?”
For the most part, people with metastatic breast cancer will require some type of treatment for the rest of their lives.
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What Is Stage 4 Cancer
- It can also be called metastatic or advanced cancer.
- Survival rates vary due to a variety of factors, including the type of cancer.
- Diagnosing a cancer stage helps your medical team determine treatment options.
If youve been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, or love someone who has, youll naturally have a lot of questions ;and we want to help answer them in this expert-backed primer.
Lets start with the most basic among common questions: What does stage 4 cancer mean?
Also referred to as metastatic or advanced, it refers to cancer that has spread to other organs or parts of the body. The reason doctors diagnose cancer by its stages is to have a common language for discussion as well as to make a determination for the best and most appropriate treatment.
Stage 4 cancer is a serious diagnosis. But especially now in the age of immunotherapies and other new therapies, some stage 4 cancers, can have really profound, durable responses to treatment,;Dr. Irene Kang, who specializes in medical oncology at USC Norris Cancer Hospital, told SurvivorNet.
Lets take a closer look at some specifics.
What Is Advanced Stage Iv Breast Cancer
Stage IV is the most invasive of all stages of breast cancer. At this point, the cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs in the body such as the lungs, distant lymph nodes, skin, bones, liver, or brain.
Stage IV is often called advanced or metastatic breast cancer, its really scary for most patients. Its common but varies from person to person, said Cruz. But I have had patients who come to me crying, thinking they were going to die tomorrow but they are living decades longer.
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Cance and Cruz said that stage IV can appear after treatment for a different stage of breast cancer. In most cases with stage IV, doctors adopt an aggressive form of treatment involving surgery, chemotherapy, and more.
How to treat breast cancer?
Treatment for breast cancer can vary depending on the stage, Cruz said, although most treatments involve some form of radiation or hormone therapy to shrink cancer cells.
Cruz said some women choose to take a drastic preventive measure through a mastectomy. A mastectomy is surgery to remove breast tissue, often where cancer cells are found or might be found later.
First, the cancer will be biopsied and, depending on the characteristics of the tumor, the treatment plan will involve surgery and possible chemotherapy or hormone therapy and radiation therapy, Cance said.
Prognosis For Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer isnt the same for everyone who has it. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, your symptoms at stage 4 will depend on the degree to which the cancer has spread in your body.
Although metastatic breast cancer has no current cure, it can be treated. Getting the right treatment can increase both your quality of life and longevity.
Life expectancy for breast cancer is based on studies of many people with the condition. These statistics cant predict your personal outcome each persons outlook is different.
The following factors can affect your life expectancy with metastatic breast cancer:
- your age
How Can I Take Care Of Myself While Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Living with metastatic breast cancer can be challenging. Your care team can help provide physical and emotional support. Talk to them about how you can:
- Eat the most nutritious diet for your needs.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get emotional support, including finding support groups.
- Reach out for help from friends, family and loved ones.
- Find mental health services.
- Find complementary therapies.
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Where Do These Numbers Come From
The American Cancer Society relies on information from the SEER* 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.
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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Supportive Alternative Cancer Therapies
Larry: Did you ever try any other therapies.
Well I, along with the cesium, I used calcium, magnesium, potassium and I used at times quite a bit of oxygen. That was something that in our research we found that was helpful. For probably 3 or 4 months I also used some DMSO. We learned that pepper was very useful in helping to get rid of cancer cells, so we used that. I mean, we used a little bit of everything. Anything that we came across that said that it you know could kill cancer we probably did try it.;
Larry: So how long did you stay on the therapy?
Yes, 16 months.
Larry: So its not a quick fix?
No probably not. I cant speak for other people. It depends on how much cesium you take. How high that you keep your pH. In reading the clinical trial, I found that half of the patients that they were allowed to test to use this protocol on half of them died. And even they thought that it might be because that they went at it a little hard, you know.
Larry: Yeah I think that a lot of the information online about the amount that you should take is completely wrong. I believe you shouldnt take more than 3 grams a day and then sometimes a lot let depending on your body weight.
Yeah. It does make a big difference. Yeah. And over the course of treatment I lost probably 60 pounds.
Will I Need More Than One Treatment For Metastatic Breast Cancer
Medications are important for metastatic breast cancer to help control its spread. Resistance to therapies may develop, which can lead your care team to recommend a change in treatment.
When you start a treatment regimen, you and your care team will see how:
- The cancer responds to the therapy.
- The side effects impact you.
If the treatment isnt working or the side effects are unbearable, your care team can discuss switching the treatment method. They may recommend a different drug, dosage or schedule.
There are many treatments available. If one therapy isnt working for you for whatever reason, there is usually another one you can try.
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What Does It Mean To Have Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Stage 4 breast cancer means that the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, such as the brain, bones, lung and liver.
Although Stage 4 breast cancer is not curable, it is usually treatable and current advances in research and medical technology mean that more and more women are living longer by managing the disease as a chronic illness with a focus on quality of life as a primary goal. With excellent care and support, as well as personal motivation, Stage 4 breast cancer may respond to a number of treatment options that can extend your life for several years.
What Is A 5
A relative survival rate compares women with the same type and stage of breast cancer to women in the overall population.For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of breast cancer is 90%, it means that women who have that cancer are, on average, about 90% as likely as women who dont have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.
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Myth #: The Mental And Emotional Experience Of People With Mbc Is The Same As That Of Earlier
People with MBC report hearing comments such as, At least you have a good type of cancer, Arent you glad so much research on breast cancer has been done?, Fortunately you have so many options. These might comfort people with early-stage breast cancer, who can look forward to one day finishing treatment and moving on but people with MBC dont have that luxury. They know they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives. They also know that their life is likely to be shorter than theyd planned.
Mentally and emotionally, people with MBC have a completely different experience. For them, the whole ringing the bell idea does not work, says Dr. Gupta. I have patients who are coming in once a week and have to plan their lives around their treatment. The whole pink brigade idea is very upsetting to them.
Fortunately, more and more people with MBC are speaking up and calling attention to how their experience differs from that of people with earlier-stage breast cancer. People with MBC live with cancer always in the background of their lives, but with new and emerging therapies, many are living longer and maintaining their quality of life.
Clearly, the experience of metastatic breast cancer is quite different from early-stage breast cancer. But there are so many patients who understand just what youre going through. Read more about Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and join our discussion forum for people with stage IV/metastatic disease.
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 I Wish People Knew About 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.
What Is The Average Stage Four Cancer Life Expectancy
There is no average stage four cancer life expectancy which is relevant amongst all types of cancer. Some cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, have a very short expected survival rate while others, such as testicular cancer, may have a high survival rate. Many patients who are diagnosed with stage four cancer will not live one year. Others may survive five years, or more, depending on where the primary cancer is located and where it has spread.
Cancer is classified as being in stage four when cancer cells have spread from the original, or primary, location to other areas of the body. This would include areas which are farthest from the site of the primary cancer. The overall stage four life expectancy is much lower than that of lower stages of cancer. Many patients die well before five years, with many passing after only a few months to one year.
Some types of cancer may be more responsive to treatments than others, even in the later stages. Cancer of the testes are one example. The overall five year survival rate for testicular cancer patients with stage four disease is 95%.
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What Should A Person With Stage 4 Breast Cancer Expect From Treatment
Treatment options vary widely depending on where you live, your access to specialists and sub-specialists, and your willingness to try therapies that are still in the experimental phase.
Seek out oncology specialists who specialize in Stage 4 breast cancer. Discuss with your treatment team what clinical trials may be available for your clinical situation.
During this time, be sure to surround yourself with a support system of friends and family. ;
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.
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