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How Long To Live With Metastatic Breast Cancer

Survival For All Stages Of Breast Cancer

How long can you expect to live with metastatic breast cancer?

Generally for women with breast cancer in England:

  • Around 95 out of every 100 women survive their cancer for 1 year or more after diagnosis
  • Around 85 out of every 100 women will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  • Around 75 out of every 100 women will survive their cancer for 10 years or more after diagnosis

Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England, 2019Office for National Statistics

These statistics are for net survival. Net survival estimates the number of people who survive their cancer rather than calculating the number of people diagnosed with cancer who are still alive. In other words, it is the survival of cancer patients after taking into account that some people would have died from other causes if they had not had cancer.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer

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.

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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How Long Do People Live With Secondary Breast Cancer

One of the first things many people with secondary breast cancer want to know is how long theyve got to live.

Life expectancy is difficult to predict as each persons case is different and no two cancers progress in the same way. However, as treatments have improved, more and more people are living longer after a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer.

Your specialist will have an understanding of the likely progression of your secondary breast cancer and can talk to you about what you might expect. You may worry if their answers are vague but it isnt possible to accurately predict how each persons cancer will respond to treatment.

Stage 4 Survival Rates

Metastatic Breast Cancer  A Different Type of Breast Cancer

To get a perspective on the difference in survival rates during different stages of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society the rate of survival after diagnosis is:

  • For those at stage 2 there is an expected five-year survival rate of over 90%.
  • For those at stage 3 there is an expected five-year survival rate of 72%.
  • For stage 4 there is an expected five-year survival rate of 22%.

Because the earlier stages of breast cancer have much longer survival rates, early detection and treatment are important.

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Living With Secondary Breast Cancer

Everyones experience of being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer is different, and people cope in their own way.

For many people, uncertainty can be the hardest part of living with secondary breast cancer.

Our information on living with secondary breast cancer addresses the emotional, practical and physical effects of a diagnosis.

Stage : Kim Green Has Lived With Metastatic Breast Cancer For Past 19 Years

Kim Green defies the odds for those living with incurable metastatic breast cancer. Her mother died of metastatic breast cancer at 37, but Green has been living with it for 19 years.

Green has endured more than 60 surgeries since she found a lump in her breast when she was 34 and six months pregnant. Doctors got clean margins after performing a lumpectomy. Shortly afterward she gave birth to her son, born prematurely. She began chemo treatments a week after his birth, followed by a bilateral mastectomy.

Yet, four months after treatment ended, she woke up one morning with a tumor on her neck the size of a golf ball.

When cancer spreads from its original source to another part of the body, its metastatic or stage 4 cancer. There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, and the median life expectancy is 24 months. The number of metastatic breast cancer patients living longer and well with the disease keeps inching up, doctors say. But ultimately, people die from it.

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People with stage 4 breast cancer live longer because of new and better drugs that prolong the time when people feel good. There have been 15 new drugs in the past 15 years, says Dr. Lajos Pusztai, director of Breast Cancer Translational Research at the Yale Cancer Center and professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

Breast cancer by the numbers »

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Minimal Residual Disease Mrd

Targeted agents Targeted agents have been designed to reduce or block very specific pathways that are implicated in the growth of cancer. Currently, there are targeted agents that block the HER2 pathway for patients who have HER2-positive MBC.

The term precision therapy does not yet have an official definition and at present may be used in different ways. In general, precision therapy refers to treatment that is individualized based on patient and cancer characteristics and continues to be an area of extensive research.

Clinical Trials Patients with MBC are often eligible to participate in a clinical trial when they have exhausted available treatment options or when available treatments might not provide the quality of life they seek.

Patients may decide against treatment with approved options due to their side effects, or they may not have any other treatment options available to them, Dr. Nichols says. These patients may be good candidates for participation in a clinical trial and should speak with their physician about the possible trials available at their treatment center. If theyre being treated at a center where there are no trials, patients should ask for a referral or for other resources to further pursue trial participation if thats something theyre interested in.

Many patients share their experiences about clinical trial participation in social communities designed specifically for cancer patients, such as the community at CancerConnect.com.

Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Metastasis To Liver

Breakthroughs in metastatic breast cancer treatment

Metastatic breast cancer may grow silently in the body while you are completely unaware. Early on in metastatic liver cancer there might not be any signs or symptoms to alert you. As the cancer grows, you may experience liver swelling. This may cause the following symptoms:

  • Bloating of your abdomen
  • Mass on upper right abdomen
  • Fever, chills, sweats
  • Confused thinking

Knowing the early symptoms can help you find and treat breast cancer that has metastasized to the liver early on and slow the progression of the disease.

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What Is Metastatic Cancer

Cancer that spreads from where it started to a distant part of the body is called metastatic cancer. For many types of cancer, it is also called stage IV cancer. The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis.

When observed under a microscope and tested in other ways, metastatic cancer cells have features like that of the primary cancer and not like the cells in the place where the metastatic cancer is found. This is how doctors can tell that it is cancer that has spread from another part of the body.

Metastatic cancer has the same name as the primary cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung is called metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as stage IV breast cancer, not as lung cancer.

Sometimes when people are diagnosed with metastatic cancer, doctors cannot tell where it started. This type of cancer is called cancer of unknown primary origin, or CUP. See the Carcinoma of Unknown Primary page for more information.

The Psychological Impact Of Uncertainty

Although newer therapies can help some patients live longer, clinicians cannot predict how long a treatment is going to be effective for an individual patient. The psychological impact of this uncertainty on patients and their loved ones was a theme of the meeting, said Dr. Temel.

Jamil Rivers, who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer 3 years ago at age 39, spoke at the conference about the uncertainty of living with the disease.

After being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Jamil Rivers started the Chrysalis Initiative, a nonprofit that helps women of color with breast cancer.

When you learn that you have metastatic cancer and see the survival statistics, it can be overwhelming emotionally, said Rivers. And if youre living with metastatic cancer, youre living from treatment to treatment, from scan to scan.

Rivers said that her latest imaging scans had not shown any tumors. But I still have metastatic cancer, she explained. I have to be on some type of treatment to keep that cancer at bay so that it doesnt grow and wreak havoc on my body.

Rivers also described financial challenges related to cancer. She did not tell her employer about her diagnosis so that she could maintain her salary and her familys health insurance, which was through the employer. She continued to work for the year that she received chemotherapy.

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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.

Treatment For Advanced Breast Cancer

Living Well with Metastatic 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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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.

Approved Therapies For Mbc

Chemotherapy Chemotherapy remains an important treatment component for many patients with MBC, particularly those with triple-negative breast cancer. Chemotherapy agents can be used as single agents or in combination with other chemotherapy agents, hormonal therapies, or targeted therapies.

Radiation therapy Radiation therapy can be targeted to specific sites to reduce the size of the cancer. Radiation is often helpful with pain management at these sites and can be used in combination with most other types of therapies.

Hormonal therapy Hormonal therapy refers to treatment that reduces exposure of cancer cells to estrogen and is used for HR-positive breast cancers. There are different types of hormonal therapy that have different mechanisms of action to produce their effects. Premenopausal and postmenopausal women are eligible for different types of hormonal agents. Premenopausal women may also undergo surgery to remove the ovaries, as they produce estrogen.

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Life Expectancy Of Stage 4 Breast Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, 22% of the patients live five years after being diagnosed of stage 4 breast cancer. Compared to earlier stages of the cancer, this rate is considerably lower. At stage two, the five year survival rate is at 90% and at stage three, it is 72%. This shows that an early diagnosis is important for better chances of survival.

Predicting survival rates for patients are never really accurate. Your age, general health, hormone receptors on cells with cancer, the type of tissue the cancer has affected and your general outlook on life all affect your stage 4 breast cancer life expectancy.

About 50% percent of women who are diagnosed with stage four breast cancer are still alive 18 months after their diagnosis. Over the years, life expectancy for stage four cancer has been steadily and slowly improving. This has been mainly due to combination treatment of surgery, radiation, multiple medications, and a much more positive support network.

What Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Metastatic Breast Cancer

Living well with 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

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Research Into Advanced And Metastatic Breast Cancer

As metastatic breast cancer remains the leading cause of death from breast cancer, NBCF is committed to funding a broad spectrum of research that helps to further understand breast cancer metastasis, develop improved treatment options and enhance patient quality of life for those with metastatic breast cancer.

Clinical Trials Are A Promising Treatment Option

For people with advanced stages of cancer, clinical trials can be considered the gold standard of treatment. I recommend clinical trials highly, says Rosen. You get access to medication and treatment that you normally wouldnt have.

A clinical trial could even have positive results on your cancer. We are living in an exciting time for cancer treatment, says Kimmick. There are myriad new drugs coming out that will improve the lives of all women with breast cancer, both metastatic and early stage.

However, its important to be realistic about the potential outcome of your trial. Rosen was recently enrolled in a clinical trial in which the medication proved toxic for her. But she has no regrets about participating. It feels like Im helping researchers who are working on cures for cancer, she says. When I had a bad reaction to the drug, they were able to put my side effects in their study. I feel like I did help, and that makes me happy.

People interested in joining a clinical trial for treatment should talk to their doctor about options that might be good for them.

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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.

About How Long Can Someone Live With Metastatic Breast Cancer

metastatic breast cancer  Get Up Swinging

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Support For Living With Secondary Breast Cancer In The Lung

Everyones experience of being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer is different, and people cope in their own way.

For many people, uncertainty can be the hardest part of living with secondary breast cancer.

You may find it helpful to talk to someone else whos had a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer.

You can also call Breast Cancer Nows Helpline free on 0808 800 6000.

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