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What Happens If You Have Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Treatment For Secondary Breast Cancer

You have Breast Cancer…

A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team .

Your doctor and nurse will talk to you about the best treatment for you. They will also ask you about your preferences. They will talk to you about things to consider when making treatment decisions. You may have some treatments as part of a clinical trial.

Secondary breast cancer can be controlled, often for many years, but it cannot be cured. Because of new and improved treatments, women with secondary breast cancer are living for longer. The aim of treatment is to control the cancer, improve the symptoms and help you to live well for longer.

The treatment you have will depend on:

  • where the cancer is in your body
  • if it is ER positive or HER2 positive
  • previous breast cancer treatment you have had.

You may have a combination of treatments.

Treatments for secondary breast cancer include:

Treatment Options For Metastatic Breast Cancer In The Lungs

Although metastatic breast cancer is not curable, chemotherapy can weaken the cancer and stop it growing.

Doctors consider metastatic breast cancer to be a stage 4 cancer. It is not curable, and treatments focus on weakening the cancer to stop it from growing while working to improve the quality of life for the individual.

Treatments for metastatic breast cancer in the lungs usually involve systemic, or body-wide, medications that treat cancer throughout the body, such as the following:

Chemotherapy.Chemotherapy is a drug therapy that destroys all fast-growing cells in the body, both cancerous and healthy.

Hormonal therapy. Hormonal therapy is a cancer treatment that controls cancer cell growth by lowering the levels of certain hormones the cancer needs to grow. Hormone receptor-positive breast cancers respond well to this treatment.

Targeted therapy. This form of cancer treatment attempts to treat cancer with more precision than chemotherapy. These treatments target specific receptors, proteins, or molecules on cancer cells that either make it easier for the bodys immune system to identify and destroy cancerous cells or reduce their growth.

Radiation. In the case of metastatic breast cancer, doctors often use radiation therapy to reduce symptoms and control the cancers growth. Radiation therapy can help reduce pain and lower the risk of broken bones weakened due to cancer.

Chemotherapy Is Only 2% Effective In Late Stage Cancers

Many late stage cancer patients have endured unforgiving chemo treatment regimens only to realize minimal benefits, or worse, to discover their cancer was completely unresponsive. When accepting new treatments, most patients are not aware that chemotherapy is just 2 percent effective in late stage cancers after a five year period.

Despite the National Cancer Institute’s forty years of scientific research , stage 3 and 4 chemotherapy-driven cancer treatments have not progressed a whole lot. In fact, the treatments typically do not work.

In his book An Anatomy of Failure: A Blueprint for Future Years, Dr. Guy B. Faguet* suggests that chemotherapy has not been shown to assist or advance survival beyond five years in most adults who suffer with advanced and late stage cancers. The MD and Professor in the Hematology and Oncology Division at the Medical College of Georgia did a comprehensive job of exploring the potency and effectiveness of conventional chemotherapy. The doctor asserts that beyond decided proficiencies in treating a few types of cancers, like acute lymphocytic leukemia in youngsters, or choriocarcinoma, germ cell growths found in youths, chemo has a disappointing track-record.

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What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells in the breast start to divide uncontrollably. A tumor is a mass or collection of these abnormal cells.

Metastasis refers to cancer cells that have spread to a new area of the body. In metastatic breast cancer, cells may spread to the:

  • Bones.
  • Liver.
  • Lungs.

Healthcare providers name cancer based on its primary origin. That means breast cancer that spreads to other body parts is still considered breast cancer. The cancer cells are still breast cancer cells. Your care team will use breast cancer therapies, even if the cancer cells are in other areas.

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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What Is Advanced Breast Cancer

When breast cancer spreads from the breast or armpit to other areas of the body, it is called advanced breast cancer. It’s also called metastatic, secondary or Stage 4 breast cancer.

The most common places for breast cancer to spread to are the bones, lungs, liver or sometimes the brain. A secondary tumour in these distant organs, is still comprised of breast cancer cells so it is readily identified as a secondary breast cancer rather than a new primary cancer.

Advanced breast cancer can occur months or years after a diagnosis of early or locally advanced breast cancer. Occasionally, its diagnosed at the same time as the original breast cancer or, on rare occasions, before any tumour can be felt or even imaged in the breast.

For many people diagnosed with early breast cancer, the future feels very uncertain. The fear that the cancer could come back may never go away completely. Being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer can be even more difficult because the hope of staying well is replaced with the realisation that a cure is no longer possible.

Although there is currently no cure for advanced breast cancer, progress is being made and the growth of secondaries can often be controlled with various treatments.

With the latest treatments, some people with advanced breast cancer may live for many years.

Will I Die Of Breast Cancer

This is a difficult question to answer early in your cancer care but it is still worth asking. Many people just diagnosed with cancer have no idea how much of a risk to their life their unique situation poses. Most breast cancers carry a low risk of recurrence, especially early-stage cancers. The answer is usually reassuring.

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Finding Social And Emotional Support

Its critical to find a strong source of social support, whether its your friends and family, or a support group with other people with breast cancer. While the journey is challenging, you dont have to navigate stage 4 breast cancer alone.

Ask your healthcare provider if theres an in-person support group where you receive treatments. You can also find online and social media groups to join.

Your healthcare provider can also provide more information about the specifics of your cancer, treatment options, and support programs in your area. If youre not sure where to look for an in-person group, a counselor or social worker can also help.

More Information About The Tnm Staging System

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The T category describes the original tumor:

  • TX means the tumor can’t be assessed.
  • T0 means there isn’t any evidence of the primary tumor.
  • Tis means the cancer is “in situ” .
  • T1, T2, T3, T4: These numbers are based on the size of the tumor and the extent to which it has grown into neighboring breast tissue. The higher the T number, the larger the tumor and/or the more it may have grown into the breast tissue.

The N category describes whether or not the cancer has reached nearby lymph nodes:

  • NX means the nearby lymph nodes can’t be assessed, for example, if they were previously removed.
  • N0 means nearby lymph nodes do not contain cancer.
  • N1, N2, N3: These numbers are based on the number of lymph nodes involved and how much cancer is found in them. The higher the N number, the greater the extent of the lymph node involvement.

The M category tells whether or not there is evidence that the cancer has traveled to other parts of the body:

  • MX means metastasis can’t be assessed.
  • M0 means there is no distant metastasis.
  • M1 means that distant metastasis is present.

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Here’s Why I’m Sharing My Secret

Ina Jaffe

I’ve decided to tell my secret for two reasons. The first is that I realized that much of my initial despair was based on bad information. I was wrong about almost everything. So maybe my confession will shorten the Despair Phase for others.

The second reason is much more in my wheelhouse as a journalist: outrage. I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, my mistakes.

I thought metastatic breast cancer was fairly rare. Nope. Up to 30% of women with early stage breast cancer progress to stage 4. I thought that you were more likely to get metastatic breast cancer if you’d been diagnosed with a more-advanced stage of breast cancer to begin with. Wrong again. It’s not dependent on your stage at original diagnosis. I was stage 1B when I was first diagnosed in January 2012.

I thought it was my fault. Maybe I drank too much . Or gained too much weight .

Those are among many factors that can influence whether you get breast cancer initially. But no one is sure what causes metastases. So again, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Unfortunately, I did have something mostly right. The five-year relative survival rate is about 1 in 4.

And it’s worse for Black women. Due to the types of cancers that they get, African American women have the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any U.S. racial or ethnic group, at 26.8 per 100,000 annually.

Relieving Symptoms Of Advanced Breast Cancer

Treatment to relieve symptoms depends on where the cancer has spread. For example, pain from bone metastases may be treated with radiation therapy, drugs called bisphosphonates such as pamidronate or zoledronic acid , or the drug denosumab . For more, see our information about the treatment of bone metastases.

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What About Other Treatments That I Hear About

When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.

Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.

How Having Metastatic From The Start Might Influence Treatment

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There are some advantages for women diagnosed with de novo metastatic breast cancer compared to women who have progressed following an early breast cancer. The main advantage is that their cancer is treatment naïve, meaning it has not previously been exposed to any anti-cancer treatments and is therefore likely to be more responsive to treatment. There have been some reports of small numbers of women who may even be cured from metastatic breast cancer in this circumstance. In addition, there are more treatment options available than for those who have received previous treatment for early breast cancer who may have already used up some of their options.

The one positive was that my oncologist said that he more or less had an open book of treatments that he could offer me.

Another positive that women sometimes describe is that they can feel the cancer in their breast getting smaller once treatments starts. Mammograms and breast ultrasounds may be used as a way of checking that the cancer in the breast is responding to treatment. Many women find this reassuring, knowing that the treatment they are having is working for them.

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Newly Diagnosed Or Worried About A Symptom

In the days or weeks after a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer, you may feel in turmoil and find it hard to think clearly.

You can read our information for people newly diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, including where to find support.

If you havent been diagnosed but are worried about a symptom, find out more about the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer.

Stage Iv Cancer Survival Without Chemo

Hi All,My mother has been diagnosed with Stage IV Gall Bladder Cancer metastatized into Liver and few lymph nodes. Oncologists told me that Palliative Chemo is the only option available which can only improve the quality of life to some extent. The diagnose happened on 17 Oct and dr mentioned 6-8 months with Chemotherapy and around 3-6 months without it. Hence as every other care taker or patient who was shown the ugle face of Cancer, I chose to go ahead with Chemo for my mother. She is 66 years old and not very strong.;It has been 4.5 months and completed 8 Chemo cycles using GEMOX . Response has been average as the primary tumor at the wall of gall bladder decreased by 20 mm since the start of the treatment.;Now after the 8th chemo, my mother is having serious troubles like continuous loose motions, high fever and extreme weekness. As per doctor, it is expected and now the response will also not be great as cells becomes resistant to chemo drugs.;

So considering the above, I am planning to discontinue Chemo and just take care of my mother for whatever time she has.;Please let me know if you have any information on cancer survival in Stage 4 without Chemo. Are there any ways in which I can prolong her life?Thanks.;

Hi Avitiwari,

Everyone is different and you may find that the oncologist agrees with your suggestion of reducing the number of cycles. This is NOT an exact science

Good luck

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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. It’s 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 cancerit’s still breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute .

Stage 4 breast cancer is an uncommon initial diagnosistechnically called de novo metastatic breast cancer, it’s 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.

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Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Go Into Remission

What happens after you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer?

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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How Is Stage 4 Breast Cancer Treatedand What’s The Survival Rate

While every stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis is differentwhich means the methods used to treat it will also differthis stage of breast cancer is usually treated systemically , since the cancer has already spread to other areas of the body. Systemic treatments usually include options like hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy, according to the NCI.

Still, those treatments vary depending on a variety of factors, including where the cancer is located, as well as the patient’s symptoms, overall health, and previous cancer treatmentsand patients are closely monitored throughout treatment for the best outcome.;Patients are generally started on the treatment of best reflex or biology and followed closely using scans, with change in treatments as needed if the current treatment is not resulting and either shrinkage or stability of the breast cancer, Dr. Tripathy explains.;

In addition to more standard systemic treatment options, Dr. Tripathy explains that there are newer technologies being increasingly usedlike ones that sequence the DNA of cancerous tumor cells for more specified treatmentsas well as various clinical trials designed to offer more options and possibly better outcomes to those dealing with the disease.;

There Are Good Days And Bad Days

There are days when I say to myself, Ive had enough. I cant take it anymore, says Rosen. But I want to keep on living. I love my life. Overall, I have a great life except for the cancer.

Rosen has a few mantras she uses when things get tough. A lot of the tough times are treatment related, she says. I refer to those as bumps in the road, and , This too shall pass.

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