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How Long Can You Live With Untreated Breast Cancer

Dilemmas Of Stage Iv Breast Cancer

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Indeed, there are many serious and personal questions involving stage IV breast cancer. So, overall survival is less likely, and gains from intensive breast cancer treatment are unfortunately rather modest. A serious consideration is, therefore, quality of life during the course of treatment.

These decisions tend to be a dynamic process, based on individual cases, between patients and physicians. Respect needs to be given to the expectations for treatment, the status of the disease and the patient wishes.

Stage Iii Breast Cancer Locally Advanced

A stage 3 breast cancer is sometimes referred to as a locally advanced breast cancer.

Stage III breast cancers are actually a heterogeneous group of cancers but account for about 7% of all initial breast cancer diagnosis.

Basically, a stage III breast cancer is one in which there is:-

  • a primary tumor of greater than 5cm in diameter with no apparent metastasis
  • OR the tumor is between 2cm and 5cm in diameter with evidence of rather significant metastasis.

Another way of looking at it is that stage III breast cancers either have a large but operable breast tumor . Or sometimes Stage III breast cancers present with a medium-size breast tumor which is more difficult to fully treat and cure with surgery alone.

The Stages Of Breast Cancer

NOTE: Although a lot of this information is still valid, The American Joint Committee on Cancer has recently updated their classifications for staging breast tumors.

We will be updating all our articles on staging in the near future. In the meantime, please click HERE for a brief summary of the major changes in January 2018.

If a breast biopsy confirms that breast cancer is indeed the diagnosis, the staging process begins.

The stages of breast cancer are really the extent of breast cancer. So, in order to choose and begin the best treatment, it is necessary to stage breast cancer. The staging process shows the progression of breast cancer.

Breast cancer progresses in relatively predictable and consistent ways, so it is possible to categorize breast cancer in terms of stages.

There are basically five stages of breast cancer, with some subcategories .

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I May Not Feel Like A Fighter Theres No Final Victory

The language used to describe cancer and its treatment is often the language of war: fighting cancer, battling cancer, being a warrior. But those words may not resonate with women who have metastatic breast cancer.

Sendelbach recalls using fighting words when she was first diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. I was 30 years old, and I was in fight mode, she says. I was like, Hell yeah, I can kick cancers ass and so on. When she was diagnosed with stage 4, though, she realized there would be no end in sight, no final victory for her.

Theres not a finish line, she says, so to be in fight mode doesnt really work. There has to be an end in sight to stay in that place.

For her, metastatic breast cancer is something she deals with day to day. She describes her journey as a marathon, not a sprint. If you have to stop sometimes to walk and take water breaks, she says, you should. If you try to run as fast as you can all the time, its inevitable that youre going to fail.

Is Stage 4 Breast Cancer Curable

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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.

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Relative Survival Rates For Breast Cancer

The National Cancer Institute gives 5-year relative survival rates for breast cancer based on how far the disease had spread before a doctor found it.

  • Localized : 99%
  • Unknown stage: 55%
  • All stages: 90%

While these numbers can give you a general idea, they are an average for women with any type of breast cancer. They arenât specific to the HER2+ type. They also come from data that researchers collected from 2010 to 2016, so they donât reflect more recent treatment advances.

Understanding Breast Cancer Survival Rates

Prognosis varies by stage of breast cancer.

Non-invasive and early-stage invasive breast cancers have a better prognosis than later stage cancers .

Breast cancer thats only in the breast and has not spread to the lymph nodes has a better prognosis than breast cancer thats spread to the lymph nodes.

The poorest prognosis is for metastatic breast cancer . This is when the cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body.

Learn more about breast cancer treatment.

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What Tests Are Used To Determine If A Patient Can Benefit From Chemo

Genomic profiling tests can help determine if a cancer is likely to return and whether or not some patients with small, early cancers will or will not benefit from chemotherapy.

There are many of these tests, and the two most common ones are Oncotype DX and MammaPrint, Dr. Lustberg says, adding that both are FDA-approved. The tests analyze a sample of a cancer tumortaken from a biopsy or a surgical specimenlooking for the activity of certain genes that can affect the likelihood that a patients cancer will grow or spread.

The following patients may be eligible for the Oncotype DX test:

  • Youve recently been diagnosed with Stage I, Stage II, or Stage IIIa invasive breast cancer
  • The cancer is estrogen-receptor-positive

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A mammary tumor is a common tumor in cats. The first sign of this type of cancer may be a fluid-filled or firm lump associated with the mammary gland or discharge originating from the nipple. These masses do not tend to be painful but can be associated with increased grooming behavior if discharge is present.

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Survival Rates For Breast Cancer

Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time after they were diagnosed. They cant tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific cancer, but they cant predict what will happen in any particular persons case. These statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor, who is familiar with your situation, about how these numbers may apply to you.

Can Receiving Less Chemotherapy Result Ultimately In Better Outcomes

Chemotherapy can shrink cancer and slow its growth, which is why it has been used to treat breast cancer in conjunction with surgery for so many years. But the side effects can be difficult.

In the short term, these side effects can include such problems as nausea, fatigue, and hair loss, which can sometimes last far beyond treatment. We know that, after a course of chemotherapy, a number of women, up to several years out, don’t regain their full vitality, Dr. Winer says.

But even more concerning are the long-term effects, which can include rare, but difficult, complications such as heart problems, neuropathy, and leukemia, which can ultimatelyand indirectlyaffect outcomes.

These potentially debilitating side effects are why personalizing chemotherapy treatment has become so important. If a patient can do just as well with fewer medical treatments, it’s almost always a better thing, says Dr. Winer. Less chemotherapy can mean fewer side effects, less anxiety, improved quality of life, and possibly even a longer life, he adds.

Also, when side effects are truly debilitating, treatment delivery may be impaired, Dr. Lustberg says. If we can enhance how patients are feeling during treatment, they may actually tolerate treatment better, stay on it longer, not need dose reductions or modifications, and have better disease outcomes. It’s all interrelated.

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Types Of Stage 3 Breast Cancer

These days, people with breast cancer can know more about the tumor than ever before.

In addition to staging, oncologists can now determine a tumors grade and subtype. This information helps the doctor describe the tumor and cancer stage in a more detailed way so that other members of the care team can understand the cancer better.

The tumor grade and subtype of breast cancer can vary between people. Most doctors will test tumors to determine which genes they express, so that treatment options can adapt to the results.

Doctors define different types of stage 3 breast cancer by:

  • Tumor grade: This is a measurement of how much the cancer cells differ from healthy cells under a microscope. This also provides a measure of how quickly the cancer cells are likely to grow.
  • ER status: This describes whether the cancer cells have receptors for the hormone estrogen.
  • PR status: This indicates whether the cancer cells have receptors for the hormoneprogesterone.
  • HER2 status: This describes whether the cancer cells are making the HER2 protein.

How Fast Can Breast Cancer Spread

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Metastasis occurs when breast cancer cells begin to grow in another body part.

It is hard to say exactly how quickly breast cancer can grow, including the timeframe, as the disease affects each person differently.

Cancer occurs due to mutations in human cells. Mutations do not follow normal, predictable patterns of cell division, so it is difficult to predict the progression.

Tumors appear when damaged cells replicate over and over to form a clump of abnormal cells. Breast cancer cells can break off and move through the lymph or blood vessels to other areas of the body.

If breast cancer cells begin to grow in another body part, this is called metastasis. Breast cancer is most likely to metastasize to the lymph nodes, lungs, and bones.

Regardless of the location of the new tumor, doctors still consider it to be breast cancer.

Breast cancer growth and its chances of spreading depend on the following:

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Myth #: If An Earlier

Ninety percent of MBC diagnoses occur in people who have already been treated for an earlier-stage breast cancer. Many people are under the impression that remaining cancer-free for 5 years means that a metastatic recurrence cant happen. However, distant recurrences can occur several years or even decades after initial diagnosis. Factors such as original tumor size and the number of lymph nodes involved can help predict the risk of recurrence.

For example, a 2017 survey of 88 studies involving nearly 63,000 women diagnosed with early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer found that the risk of distant recurrence within 20 years ranged from 13% to 41%, depending on tumor size and lymph node involvement.1

As KatyK of Idaho comments: that you are cured if you are cancer-free 5 years after initial diagnosis. I fell for that one myself. When I was diagnosed with MBC 12 years after initial diagnosis I was shocked. I thought I was cured, which to me means all better. Nope! Not even sure medically what cured means.

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If Im 70 Or Older Will Invasive Breast Cancer Be Fatal

Though a cancer diagnosis is scary at any age, older adults may feel more vulnerable. But Tran says there are reasons not to panic.

In patients 70 years old or older, most of the time, the invasive cancer is hormone receptor positive, which means it is a slower-growing cancer.

Most patients treated for invasive breast cancer survive, she says. Even when you are diagnosed at an older age, you can successfully complete your therapy, go on living and eventually die from causes other than breast cancer.

This is especially true for those who are in good general health at the time of their diagnosis and who are able to care for themselves.

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Mortality Rates Versus Number Of Breast Cancer Deaths

Sometimes its useful to have an estimate of the number of people expected to die from breast cancer in a year. This numbers helps show the burden of breast cancer in a group of people.

Numbers, however, can be hard to compare to each other. To compare mortality in different populations, we need to look at mortality rates rather than the number of breast cancer deaths.

Additional Tools For Diagnosing Stage 4 Breast Cancer

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The additional tools below are often used specifically for diagnosing advanced cancer:

Sentinel lymph node biopsy: This procedure removes sentinel lymph node cells during surgery for examination. When breast cancer spreads, it often heads first to the lymph nodes.

Chest X-ray: This detailed image of the chest may help doctors see whether cancer has spread to the bones.

Computed tomography scan: Also known as a CAT scan, this procedure takes detailed pictures of internal areas of the body using a computer linked to an X-ray machine. A dye may be used to help the organs show up more clearly in the images.

Bone scan: This procedure looks for bone metastasis, or cancer cells that have spread to the bone. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the blood, then detected with a scanner.

Positron emission tomography scan: A PET scan is a detailed imaging tool that uses a radioactive drug, known as a tracer, to search for cancer cells within the body.

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Diagnosing Metastatic Breast Cancer

Getting a clear picture of where breast cancer has spread is essential for creating a personalized treatment plan. The patient’s care team will likely use a combination of the following tests and tools to diagnose both localized and advanced breast cancer:

Ultrasound exam: With this imaging technique, sound waves create a picture of internal areas of the body.

Magnetic resonance imaging : This procedure produces detailed images using magnetic fields and radio waves.

Blood chemistry studies: A blood sample is taken to measure the amounts of certain substances that are released by your organs and tissues. A higher or lower amount of a particular substance may be a sign of disease.

Breast biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of cells or tissues so a pathologist may view them through a microscope. An original breast cancer diagnosis is typically confirmed with a biopsy.

Exercise And Secondary Breast Cancer In The Lung

Some people with secondary breast cancer in the lung have no symptoms while others have a combination of pain, sickness, loss of appetite, hiccups, tiredness and fatigue. While physical activity may help reduce some symptoms its important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. Gentle, regular activity, such as walking, is often most effective.

If youre currently having treatment you may need to exercise at a slightly lower level. Stop if it hurts or feels like youre working too hard.

When choosing your exercise, try to focus on aerobic activities such as walking, swimming or cycling. Activities such as dancing and gardening can also be beneficial. You could also include some light toning or conditioning exercises such as stretching or low-impact yoga. The most important thing is to choose something you can safely enjoy.

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Breast Cancer Progression Tends To Be Consistent And Predictable

There are many ways that breast cancer can develop but most of the time it starts in the breast ducts.

While cancer is still confined to the breast ducts, specialists refer to it as ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS. The good news is that if breast screening detects cancer at this in-situ stage, the chance of survival is close to 100%.

As cancer moves into the breast duct wall and finally begins to affect the surrounding breast tissue, specialists call it infiltrative or invasive breast cancer.

If treatment does not occur, breast cancer will usually spread to other areas of the body . Very often the first area that cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the underarm area .

Once cancer enters the lymphatic system, it can and usually does spread to other areas of the body. Sometimes this is called distant metastasis.

Not all breast cancers spread first to the axillary lymph nodes and then to the rest of the body. If the breast tumor occurs near the nipple, cancer may spread first to the internal mammary nodes beneath the sternum. And in some cases, the breast cancer can spread via the bloodstream without involving the lymphatic system.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer

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With this type of breast cancer, the breast cancer cells dont have ER+ or PR+ receptors. They dont overproduce the HER2 protein, so hormone therapy isnt very effective.

Instead, triple negative stage 4 breast cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may also be an option, depending on the site of metastasis.

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Outcome Analysis Of Breast Cancer Patients Who Declined Evidence

Here is the recent paper I referred to above, which studied women with breast cancer in Northern Alberta who refused standard treatments. It was also a chart review with a matched pair analysis that compared survival with those that received conventional cancer care. Between 1980 and 2006 they identified 185 women that refused cancer care following diagnosis by biopsy. Women older than 75 were excluded from the analysis because this population is generally not included in clinical trials and active treatment regimens. In addition, women that accepted surgery, but rejected chemotherapy/radiation were excluded from the analysis. To qualify, women had to have rejected all conventional care. The final population studied was 87 women, most of whom presented with early disease. Most were married, over the age of 50, and urban residents. In this group, the primary treatment was CAM in 58%, and was unknown in the remainder. Some women in this group eventually accepted cancer care, and the average delay was 20-30 weeks due to CAM use.

The results were grim. The 5 year overall survival was 43% for women that declined cancer care, and 86% for women that received conventional cancer care. For cancer-specific survival survival was 46% vs. 85% in those that took cancer care. The survival curves are ugly:

All causes of deaths and deaths due to breast cancer only

The authors compared the CAM group to those where treatment plan was not known:

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