I Have To Prioritize And Try Not To Sweat The Small Stuff
For Sendelbach, each week begins with a list of her priorities. Obviously, getting to my doctors appointments is very important, she says. But if the clothes arent folded, is that a dire situation? Absolutely not!
Sendelbach has learned to make compromises: If her husband and son have to pick up their clean clothes from the couch, she can live with that.
I have learned, she says, to look at every situation and ask if this is going to truly make a difference in my day or my familys day for better or worse. If the answer is no, then that task might be left undone.
It wasnt always this way for Sendelbach, though. When she was first diagnosed with cancer, her son was just a year old and she had been married for only two and a half years. You know how it is when you first have a baby if everything isnt perfect, then the world is falling apart! she laughs. Now, to us we ate, were all still alive, the house is acceptable if were good, its all okay.
Metastatic Breast Cancer: What You Should Know
What does it mean to have metastatic, or stage 4, breast cancer? A Rogel Cancer Center oncologist explains the diagnosis and how its treated.
After hearing a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, a rush of questions emerges. But often, its not until long after leaving the doctors office.
Metastatic means the cancer has spread beyond the breast and immediate lymph nodes to other organs or tissues in the body, most often the bones, brain, lungs or liver. Its considered stage 4 breast cancer, which means the cancer has progressed to its most advanced stage.
But even though its moved to other organs, it still behaves like breast cancer and is treated with breast cancer therapies.
More than 154,000 U.S. women are estimated to have metastatic breast cancer, according to the Susan G. Komen organization. Men can have metastatic breast cancer too, but its rare.
To help patients fill in information gaps, N. Lynn Henry, M.D., Ph.D., the breast oncology disease lead for the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, explains the nuances of stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
What are the differences between metastatic breast cancer, stage 4 breast cancer and advanced cancer?
If any doctor uses the term advanced, ask for clarification, Henry adds.
When does metastatic breast cancer appear?
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of bone metastases:
Treatment Options For Metastatic Breast Cancer
Treatment for metastatic breast cancer often is based on systemic therapies, which use drugs rather than surgery or radiation. Metastases treatments are designed to shrink tumors and slow their growth, help ease symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment may change, such as when one therapy stops working, or the side effects become too uncomfortable. Rather than having only one treatment, most patients undergo several treatments combined to help fight the cancer.
The four broad categories of drug-based treatments are:
Read Also: Estrogen Feed Cancer
Stage 4 Prostate Cancer And Treatments
A stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis means that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, usually to either the adrenal glands, bones, lungs, or liver.
Treatment for stage 4 prostate cancer can involve removing the prostate and providing hormone therapy. Hormone blocking therapy reduces the amount of testosterone in the body, in order to help slow the growth of the cancer or shrink it. This type of hormone therapy is sometimes used alongside testicle removal, on a case by case basis. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also occasionally used.
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.
You May Like: 4th Stage Breast Cancer Life Expectancy
Systemic & Common Drug Treatments
Chemotherapy is the process by which anti-cancer drugs are used as a method of cancer treatment. Because the process of chemotherapy is aimed at destroying cancer cells, it has been shown to effectively cure cancer in some people. While chemotherapy may not be completely effective in curing Stage 4 cancer, it does offer the benefit of easing and relieving some of the symptoms of itwhich is certainly a step in the right direction.
Additionally, immunotherapy refers to the process by which a patients own immune system is stimulated, in an effort to encourage the body to fight off the cancer. One common form of immunotherapy treatment utilizes various drugs, known as checkpoint inhibitors, to encourage the immune system to identify and attack cancer cells on its own. There are many forms of immunotherapy, so its best to consult with your doctor to learn more.
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.
Also Check: Invasive Breast Cancer Meaning
Living With Breast Cancer
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can affect daily life in many ways, depending on what stage it’s at and the treatment you will have.
How people cope with the diagnosis and treatment varies from person to person. There are several forms of support available, if you need it.
Forms of support may include:
- family and friends, who can be a powerful support system
- communicating with other people in the same situation
- finding out as much as possible about your condition
- not trying to do too much or overexerting yourself
- making time for yourself
Find out more about living with breast cancer.
Coping With The Shock Of Diagnosis
A diagnosis of secondary breast cancer often comes as a very big shock.
In the days or weeks after your diagnosis, you may feel in turmoil and find it hard to think clearly.
You may experience many different emotions, including disbelief, denial, shock, anger, fear, numbness and helplessness. Your emotions may swing from one extreme to the other or change from one day to the next.
Many people go through this stage before reaching a point where theyre able to start taking some control of their situation. However difficult it may seem, you can have some control over how you manage the illness and deal with the emotional and practical issues it brings.
Read Also: First Stage Breast Cancer Symptoms
Plans Have To Be Flexible
My energy is unpredictable, says Sendelbach. I literally never know how Im going to feel from one day to the next. Its so hard to make plans because if I say yes to something thats two weeks away, the day of, I could wake up and feel absolutely horrible.
When someone with metastatic breast cancer declines an invitation or cancels at the last minute, its most likely not because they dont want to be there. Says Sendelbach, We physically cant do it.
Silberman agrees. Ive been going through for a long time, she says, and Ive had friends drop away. Because of MBC and my treatments, its hard for me to be reliable.
Symptoms Of Secondary Breast Cancer
The symptoms of secondary breast cancer depend on where in the body the cancer has spread to. If it has spread to the bones there might be a painful area in a bone. If it has spread to a lung it may cause breathlessness.
Some people have general symptoms. They may feel generally unwell for no obvious reason. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any new symptoms. If you are worried, we have more information about the symptoms of secondary breast cancer.
Don’t Miss: Malignant Neoplasm Of Breast Meaning
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.
Myth #: Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Curable
Whether metastatic breast cancer is someones first diagnosis or a recurrence after treatment for earlier-stage breast cancer, it cant be cured. However, treatments can keep it under control, often for months at a time. People with MBC report fielding questions from family and friends such as, When will you finish your treatments? or Wont you be glad when youre done with all of this? The reality is they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives.
A typical pattern is to take a treatment regimen as long as it keeps the cancer under control and the side effects are tolerable. If it stops working, a patient can switch to another option. There may be periods of time when the cancer is well-controlled and a person can take a break. But people with MBC need to be in treatment for the rest of their lives.
As member of our Community at Breastcancer.org Vlnprh of Wisconsin comments: The vast majority of people have no idea what MBC treatment involves. They somehow think that you will undergo something similar to early-stage patients surgery, radiation, chemo, whatever and then be done. They want to see you as a pink-tutu-wearing cheerleader jumping up and down declaring that you have beaten this disease
Don’t Miss: Her2 Positive Breast Cancer Stage 3
Why Does My Provider Need To Test The Metastatic Tumor
Your care team will test the metastases to figure out the biology of the tumor, which can help guide your treatment plan. Providers may test tumors for:
- Hormone receptor status: If the cancer is hormone receptor-positive, hormonal therapy may be your first treatment.
- HER2 status: Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 is a protein that is overexpressed on some breast cancer cells. HER2-positive cancer responds to specific HER2-targeted therapies.
- PIK3CA gene mutation: If a tumor is hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative, your provider may test for this gene mutation. Specific targeted therapies can be used to treat tumors with this mutation.
- PD-L1 status: Tumors that are hormone receptive-negative and HER2-negative may be tested for PD-L1 status. If the PD-L1 test is positive, you may be recommended to receive a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy.
Secondary Breast Cancer Prognosis
If cancer has spread from the breast to another part of the body , it can be treated but it cant be cured.
No two cancers progress in the same way, and 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.
Find out more about secondary breast cancer.
Don’t Miss: Estrogen Receptive Breast Cancer Prognosis
Diagnosis Of Stage 4 Breast Cancer
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you may have further tests to determine the extent that the cancer has spread throughout the body. This is called staging. It helps you and your doctors decide on the best treatment options for you.
In addition the numbered staging system, the TNM staging system is also commonly used for breast cancer staging.
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.
Recommended Reading: Signs Of Stage 3 Breast Cancer
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 five 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.
As KatyK of Idaho comments: that you are cured if you are cancer-free five 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.
What Does It Mean To Have Stage 3 Breast Cancer
Stage 3 cancer means the breast cancer has extended to beyond the immediate region of the tumor and may have invaded nearby lymph nodes and muscles, but has not spread to distant organs. Although this stage is considered to be advanced, there are a growing number of effective treatment options.
This stage is divided into three groups: Stage 3A, Stage 3B, and Stage 3C. The difference is determined by the size of the tumor and whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and surrounding tissue.
Also Check: Estrogen Sensitive Cancer
Myth #: The Mental And Emotional Experience Of People With Mbc Is The Same As That Of Earlier
People with MBC report hearing comments such as, At least you have a good type of cancer, Arent you glad so much research on breast cancer has been done?, Fortunately you have so many options. These might comfort people with early-stage breast cancer, who can look forward to one day finishing treatment and moving on but people with MBC dont have that luxury. They know they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives. They also know that their life is likely to be shorter than theyd planned.
Mentally and emotionally, people with MBC have a completely different experience. For them, the whole ringing the bell idea does not work, says Dr. Gupta. I have patients who are coming in once a week and have to plan their lives around their treatment. The whole pink brigade idea is very upsetting to them.
Fortunately, more and more people with MBC are speaking up and calling attention to how their experience differs from that of people with earlier-stage breast cancer. People with MBC live with cancer always in the background of their lives, but with new and emerging therapies, many are living longer and maintaining their quality of life.
Clearly, the experience of metastatic breast cancer is quite different from early-stage breast cancer. But there are so many patients who understand just what youre going through. Read more about Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and join our discussion forum for people with stage IV/metastatic disease.
Resources To Fight Cancer
If you would like to get more information on ways to prevent terminal breast cancer, please visit Cancer Fighting Strategies. This website was created to help people learn more ways to fight against breast cancer and ways to help loved ones through this tragic time.
Check out CancerFightingStrategies.com to find out what you can do to decrease the number of terminal cancer patients.
Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?
You May Like: Chemotherapy For Brca2 (breast Cancer)
Why Are Black Women Less Likely To Stick With A Breast Cancer Follow
Now Chrysalis intervenes on behalf of Black women, like one who’d just had surgery.
“They were trying to send her home that same day,” Rivers says. “They did not want to provide her with an at home nurse or to provide care. And this was all just based off an assumption that she’s Black, so she must be poor. She must not have sufficient insurance.”
Rivers has expanded her advocacy by becoming president of Metavivor, a non-profit that raises money for metastatic breast cancer research. Rivers figures she’s helped thousands of women, including herself. She’s been NED no evidence of disease for a couple of years now. So she hopes to have the strength and the determination to help thousands more Black breast cancer patients going forward.
We get answers to stopping this disease.
What Is Secondary Breast Cancer In The Bone
When cancer that started in the breast has spread to the bones, its called secondary or metastatic breast cancer in the bone.
Some people also refer to it as bone metastases or bone mets.
The bones most commonly affected are the:
- Upper bones of the arms and legs
The cells that have spread to the bone are breast cancer cells. Its not the same as having cancer that starts in the bone.
Breast cancer cells can spread to the bone through the lymphatic system or the blood.
Don’t Miss: Stage Three Breast Cancer