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.
Is It Possible To Survive Stage 4 Breast Cancer
While there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, it is possible to control it with treatment for a number of years. The cancer can also go into remission. There are different types of remission:
- Complete remission : when there are no cancer signs and symptoms that can be detected by tests or scans.
- Partial remission : when the cancer has partly responded to treatment. It is still present but it has gotten smaller.
It is currently not possible to predict how long remission will last. However, the repeated cycle of growing, shrinking and stabilising can mean survival for many years. New treatments also continue to be developed. Treatment can help to control the cancer, help relieve symptoms and help you live longer.
It is not always easy, but many people find that with time, they are able to adjust to their diagnosis. Despite the many challenges that metastatic breast cancer brings, people can continue to live full, meaningful lives.
My Mom Has End Stages Liver Cancer
I hate to ask but I’m so worried and I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
My mom is 55 her tummy is swollen really big, she is always tired and sleeps a lot.
Today I noticed she is very yellow and so are her eyes.
What happens next?
Does the severe jaundice mean death is near?
Is it a horrible death?
I’m so scared.
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Treatment Of Stage Iii Breast Cancers
Sometimes large breast cancers invade into muscles or attach to major arteries, veins or nerve trunks, which makes them impossible to surgically remove completely.
So, for these patients, the treatment usually starts with radiation or chemo to try to shrink it first, before surgery. But even a large tumor that has not attached itself onto muscle can, sometimes, be completely removed. There is no direct relationship between tumor size and whether or not it may be treated surgically or not.
Obviously, Stage 3 breast cancers that surgeons can completely remove do tend to have a significantly better prognosis than inoperable stage 3 breast cancers. However, some breast tumors, particularly those that are ER-positive, respond very well to chemotherapy. So well, in fact, that they actually downstage.
So, it is difficult to predict the overall prognosis for stage 3 breast cancer, as it will vary from individual to individual. If the response to chemotherapy is favorable, the overall survival rate is around 72%.
How Do Clinical Trials Fit Into The Equation
“I think clinical trials in general are very important, because almost every drug we have in practice right now, we learned about through a clinical trial,” Henry says.
The Rogel Cancer Center always tries to have clinical trials available for all patients, no matter the stage.
“Ask your oncologist about the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, even if it hasn’t been mentioned to you,” Henry says. “It’s one way to get access to new exciting drugs, which may be beneficial.”
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What Needs To Be Done After The Person Has Died
After the person has died, there is no need to hurry with arrangements. Family members and caregivers may wish to sit with the body, to talk, or to pray. When the family is ready, the following steps can be taken.
- Place the body on its back with one pillow under the head. If necessary, caregivers or family members may wish to put the persons dentures or other artificial parts in place.
- If the person is in a hospice program, follow the guidelines provided by the program. A caregiver or family member can request a hospice nurse to verify the death.
- Contact the appropriate authorities in accordance with local regulations. Contact the persons doctor and funeral home.
- When the patient’s family members are ready, call other family members, friends, and clergy.
- Provide or obtain emotional support for family members and friends to cope with their loss.
Being Your Own Advocate
While there aren’t currently any studies looking at self-advocacy and survival, being your own advocate can’t hurt in maximizing your survival. Oncology is changing rapidly and it’s difficult for any oncologisteven those who specialize in breast cancerto stay aware of all of the latest research and clinical trials taking place.
It can be helpful to research your cancer yourself. Becoming involved via social media such as Twitter is also an excellent way to learn about the latest research, using the hashtag #bcsm, which stands for breast cancer social media.
Getting a second opinion can be helpful as well, especially from one of the larger cancer centers such as a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
There are ways to learn about opportunities, however, that don’t require traveling for opinions. There are now clinical trial matching services in which a nurse navigator can help to match your particular tumor and characteristics with clinical trials in progress all over the world.
Several of the larger cancer centers are now also offering remote second opinions, in which an oncology team can review your medical information and talk to you on the phone about whether there are any opportunities for treatment for you that may not be available elsewhere.
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How Often Does It Happen And Why
Metavivor, an organization dedicated to researching MBC, states that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Of those, about 1 in 3 will experience metastasis.
For men, about 1 out of 1,000 will develop breast cancer during their life, but under 2% will experience metastasis.
The liver is the third most common area that MBC affects. Researchers are still not certain exactly how breast cancer spreads to the liver.
The current hypothesis indicates that it spreads to the liver when the cancer cells and liver are compatible. This is known as the seed and soil hypothesis.
research from 2015 , the exact mechanics of how breast cancer spreads to the liver are still not known.
However, in one 2019 study, researchers found that a few distinguishing factors may place a person at higher risk of developing liver metastasis. These include:
- number of lymph node metastases
- tumor size
Earlier or more frequent screening for liver metastasis may help improve outlook because a doctor may find the tumor sooner.
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.
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Treatment Options For Stage 4 Cancer
Stage 4 cancer is challenging to treat, but treatment options may help control the cancer and improve pain, other symptoms and quality of life. Systemic drug treatments, such as targeted therapy or chemotherapy, are common for stage 4 cancers.
Often, a clinical trial may be an option, offering new treatments to help you fight stage 4 cancer.
Below are the prevailing treatment options for the five most common cancers.
Treatment of stage 4 breast cancer: For cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes, systemic drug treatments are typically used. These include:
- Hormone therapy
They may be used alone or in combination, and they may also be determined by the hormone receptor and the HER2 status of the cancer.
Surgery and radiation may be treatment options in specific cases to help improve symptoms caused by a growing tumor, not to get rid of the cancer. The tumor may be removed with surgery or shrunk by radiation therapy if, for example, its:
- Blocking a blood vessel
- Causing a wound
- Affecting the spinal cord
Treatment of stage 4 lung cancer: In general, stage 4 lung cancer is also treated with systemic drug therapies.
Stage 4 lung cancer that has spread to one distant area tends to be treated differently than lung cancer that has spread more widely. For stage 4A cancers, treatment tends to focus on the one site where the cancer has spread.
There may also be clinical trials assessing new treatments for stage 4 melanoma.
How Is Advanced Breast Cancer Diagnosed
There are various tests you can have to find out the reason for your symptoms. Your GP can refer you directly for these tests, or to your previous hospital specialist. If you are still having follow up care your hospital team will organise appropriate tests for you.
Most people will need some imaging or x-rays and the type you have depends on where your symptoms are. Some of the most common tests are:
- MRI scan
- Bone scan
Some people will also require a biopsy. If your x-ray or scan confirms that a tumour is causing your symptoms, sometimes this will be enough to allow a treatment plan to be confirmed. However, for some people a biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis again.
It can also be useful to have a new sample or biopsy from the secondary tumour, as occasionally the cancer cells biology can change . For instance hormone receptor status may change from negative to positive- allowing treatment with hormone blocking agents- or from positive to negative, meaning hormonal treatment is no longer appropriate. HER2 status can also change in some cases.
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Whats The Outlook For Metastatic Breast Cancer
The right treatment plan can improve survival for people with metastatic breast cancer. However, survival rates vary and are dependent on a number of factors including type/biology of the breast cancer, parts of the body involved and individual characteristics. About 1 in 3 women live at least five years after diagnosis. Some live 10 years or longer. Your care team will discuss your prognosis with you in more detail.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Terminal
Metastatic breast cancer cant be cured and it is terminal. One thing I didnt know when I was first diagnosed is that breast cancer can only kill you if you have metastatic breast cancer, says Rosen, who explains that if your cancer remains in the breast, the tumor can be removed, but metastatic means it has spread outside the breast.
MBC is almost like a different disease than early-stage breast cancer, adds Ann Silberman, 60, from Sacramento, California, who was diagnosed in 2009. We are going to die. Our concerns are much different from those of a person who has a treatment that will be over . Someone in an earlier stage may worry about losing their hair which is understandable but they will return to their normal life at some point.
People with metastatic breast cancer expect to be on treatment for the rest of their lives. I dont think everyone understands that, Silberman says. I still get, When will your treatment be over? Well, its never going to be over.
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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.
Other Ways To Help Cancer Pain
With certain types of pain, doctors can do special procedures such as nerve blocks, targeted radiation treatments, or even surgical procedures to control pain. Sometimes physical therapy may help. If your pain isnt well controlled, your doctor might also refer you to an expert in pain management. The pain specialist might have some different options to help you.
Medicines and medical procedures are not the only ways to help lessen your pain. There are other things you can do. Some people find distractions like music, movies, conversation, or games help. Using heat, cold, or massage on a painful area can help. Relaxation exercises and meditation can help lessen the pain and lower anxiety for some people. Keep in mind that for most people with cancer pain these measures alone are not enough to control pain. But, they may help improve comfort when used along with pain medicines.
You can learn more in Cancer Pain.
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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.
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.
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.
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Bone Weakening And Fracture
Secondary breast cancer in the bone may mean that the affected bones are weakened, which can increase the risk of fracture. This is called a pathological fracture, which means the break in the bone is due to disease and not caused by an accident.
If a bone has fractured you may need surgery to try to repair the fracture. You may also be given drug treatment to stop this happening in the future.
What Are The Differences Between Metastatic Breast Cancer Stage 4 Breast Cancer And Advanced Cancer
“Most of us use the names stage 4 and metastatic interchangeably,” Henry says. “Advanced is a little more complicated. Sometimes you will see the word ‘advanced’ used to describe metastatic cancer. But sometimes you will see the term ‘locally advanced.’ That means there’s a lot of cancer in the surrounding lymph nodes, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we see cancer that has spread outside of the area. We tend to stay away from the word ‘advanced’ because there can be confusion.”
If any doctor uses the term “advanced,” ask for clarification, Henry adds.
Every patient is different. In most cases, it arises months or years after a person has completed treatment for the initial breast cancer diagnosis, Henry says.
But some patients will learn they have metastatic breast cancer when first diagnosed, a term known as de novo metastatic breast cancer, Henry says. Only 6% of women and 8% of men receive a de novo metastatic diagnosis, according to Komen.
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Articles On Breast Cancer Treatment By Stage
With stage IV, the breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Often the bones, brain, lungs, or liver are affected. Because multiple areas may be involved, focused treatments like surgery or radiation alone may not be enough.
Treatment of stage IV doesnât cure the disease. But by shrinking the cancer, it can often slow it down, help you feel better, and let you live longer. Patients with stage IV breast cancer may live for years, but itâs usually life-threatening at some point.
A Disease No One Gets
Sadly, people donât âgetâ mets. In fact, a recent survey sponsored by Pfizer Oncology shows just how misunderstood it is. Sixty percent of the 2,000 people surveyed knew little to nothing about MBC while 72 percent believed advanced breast cancer was curable as long as it was diagnosed early. Even more disheartening, a full 50 percent thought breast cancer progressed because patients either didnât take the right treatment or the right preventive measures.
âTheyâve built an industry built on four words â early detection equals cure â and that doesnât even begin to define breast cancer,â said Schoger, who helped found Breast Cancer Social Media, a virtual community for breast cancer patients, caregivers, surgeons, oncologists and others. âWomen are blamed for the fate of bad biology.â
The MBC Alliance, a consortium of 29 cancer organizations including the biggest names in breast cancer , addressed this lack of understanding and support as well as what many patient advocates term the underfunding of MBC research in a recently published landmark report.
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