What Doesnt 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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What Exactly Is Stage 4 Breast Cancer
In the simplest terms, a stage 4 breast cancer diagnosiswhich is often referred to as metastatic breast cancer or terminal breast canceris the disease in its most serious and life-threatening form, according to the American Cancer Society .
Stage 4 breast cancer refers to the spread of breast cancer beyond the area of the breast and surrounding lymph nodes,Debu Tripathy, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Breast Medical Oncology, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, tells Health. The more common sites of spread include the bone, lung, liver and brain. Itâs important to note, however, that when breast cancer spreads to another area of the body, like the bones or lungs, it does not become bone or lung canceritâs still breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute .
Stage 4 breast cancer is an uncommon initial diagnosistechnically called de novo metastatic breast cancer, itâs only found in 6 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses. Instead, metastatic breast cancer often emerges months or years after someone has already completed treatment for an initial breast cancer diagnosis in an earlier stage.
Four Stages Of The Disease
There are 4 breast cancer stages. Stage 1 breast cancer is a single tumor up to 2 cm in size, which has no regional metastases. They are located in lymph nodes, in close proximity to the affected organ in the armpit fossa. Can you die from stage 1 breast cancer? Highly unlikely! For first stage breast cancer, survival rate averages 95% and reaches 100% in some developed European countries. Those numbers also answer the which cancer is the most curable question. The most important thing here is to contact a specialist after noticing the first signs of the disease.
Stage 2 breast cancer is a small tumor, up to 2 cm or slightly larger, but often with single metastasis in the armpit fossa. The more cancer that is in the body, the more actively its harmful cells travel through the body. If stage one and stage zero are considered to be almost safe and can be easily cured, then from stage two onwards, the treatment will differ in its intensity and the measures used. At this stage, the probability of positive treatment is 60-70%. The main priority is timeliness and the use of progressive treatment methods. In the case of remote metastases being present, the situation and treatment can slightly aggravate the effectiveness of progress.
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What Can You Do About Appetite Changes
Its important to recognize changes in appetite so that you can get help when its needed. Talk to your medical team about how much youve been eating and whether you need to do something about it. For example:
- Some causes of poor appetite can be managed with medical treatment. There are medicines that can help stimulate your appetite, decrease nausea, and help food move through your stomach more quickly.
- A nutritionist might be able to offer tips on how to get the most out of each bite you take.
- Supplemental drinks or shakes can sometimes help you get needed nutrition more easily.
- You might find that youre able to eat more when others are at the table.
- You might find it easier to eat small frequent meals or snacks during the day instead of trying to eat full meals 3 times a day.
These measures may work for some, but they wont help most people who are very close to the end of life. At later stages, these efforts can even make the person feel worse.
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.
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What Other Issues Should Caregivers Be Aware Of
Its just as important for caregivers to take care of their own health at this time. Family and caregivers are affected by their loved ones health more than they realize. Taking care of a sick person often causes physical and emotional fatigue, stress, depression, and anxiety. Because of this, its important for caregivers to take care of their own body, mind, and spirit. Helping themselves will give them more energy, help them cope with stress, and cause them to be better caregivers as a result.Its also helpful if caregivers ask for support from friends and family members. Such help is important to help lessen the many tasks involved in taking care of a loved one who is sick or dying.
Recurrence Of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer is considered a chronic disease, so it doesnt go away and recur.
But in recent years, people under age 50 have seen a particularly strong decline in death rates due to breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
These declines are due in part to improved screening and treatment for the disease.
There are a few general facts that are helpful to know about breast cancer outlook:
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in the United States, according to the
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When Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Occur
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.
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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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Our Advice To Other Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer: Be Nice To Yourself
Give yourself a break! is the advice that Sendelbach offers. Stop negative self-talk about what you should have done but didnt do, she says. If you have MBC, you need to be kind and loving to yourself.
The body has only so much energy to offer per day, and managing metastatic breast cancer requires a lot of it. So it doesnt make sense to try to compare what youre able to do with what your cancer-free friends are accomplishing.
Just getting through the day can be hard, Sendelbach says. Getting rid of those not good enough feelings can lift a huge weight off you.
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.
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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.
What Is The Treatment For Metastatic Breast Cancer
Treatments include many of the same treatments as other stages of breast cancer:
- 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.
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When Do People Get A Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Metastatic breast cancer can occur at different points:
- De novo metastatic breast cancer: About 6% of women and 9% of men have metastatic breast cancer when theyre first diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Distant recurrence: Most commonly, metastatic breast cancer is diagnosed after the original breast cancer treatment. A recurrence refers to the cancer coming back and spreading to a different part of the body, which can happen even years after the original diagnosis and treatment.
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.
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What Is Stage Iv Cancer
Stage IV cancer is the most severe form of cancer in which cancer has spread to a distant part of the body from its origin. Thus, testicular cancer may have spread to the lungs and bones, thyroid cancer may have spread to the brain, and so on. It is also known as metastatic or advanced disease.
The staging system often used for most types of cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system. In these staging systems, three types of key information are used.
- T : It refers to the size of the original tumor.
- N : It describes whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- M : It refers to the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body.
A number or the letter X is allocated to each factor. A higher number means the cancer is advanced. For instance, a T1 score refers to a smaller tumor than a T2 score. The letter X indicates that information could not be assessed. M1 indicates that cancer has spread to a distant part of the body.
The physician combines T, N, and M results and other factors specific to cancer to determine the stage of cancer for each person. Most cancer types have four stages: stages I-IV, with stages I and IV being the least severe and most severe forms of cancer, respectively. Some types of cancer also have a stage 0 .
Treatment For Advanced Breast Cancer
Treatment of metastatic breast cancer aims to control the growth and spread of the cancer, to relieve symptoms, reduce pain, and improve or maintain quality of life.
The treatment recommended by doctors will depend on which treatments are likely to control the breast cancer and what side effects the person can cope with. Treatment options may involve:
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What To Do If You Have Breast Cancer
When you learn about such an unpleasant diagnosis, the first thing to do is to avoid panic in any way. Try to pull yourself together. After that, be sure to look for an experienced doctor who will tell you what to do and how to proceed. Only an experienced doctor will be able to give you the right diagnosis, assess your overall condition, and be able to provide assistance that will lead to a positive result.
The main thing, in this case, is to see a professional doctor. Unfortunately, many countries have adopted a radical fight against this disease. Therefore, the question, whether it is possible to cure without surgery, the answer is a resounding no. But in the USA, such treatment can be carried out much more gently. Clinics here offer to conduct surgery for breast cancer, but try to keep as much healthy tissue as possible. In addition, after surgery in such centers, you will certainly be offered plastic surgery to restore the breast.
So, if you or your loved one was diagnosed with breast cancer, even if it is stage 4, do not panic. Find a great oncologist, select the best treatment option, and start it immediately. With this approach, the probability of a positive outcome increases many times. Remember even the worst and most difficult diagnosis can be a thing of the past if you start the right treatment on time and believe in the best outcome.
You May Not Know Im Sick By Looking At Me
I may look perfectly healthy, but Im sick, says Silberman. Treatment is hard. I sleep a lot. I still travel, but its difficult. I just visited a friend in Utah for four days, and it wore me out for two weeks.
Just because someone doesnt look like she has advanced-stage cancer, she can be very sick. It can be an invisible illness, says Silberman. You tell somebody you have cancer, but if you have hair, sometimes they dont believe you.
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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.