Breast Cancer Survival By Age
Five-year survival for female breast cancer shows an unusual pattern with age: survival gradually increases from 85% in women aged 15-39 and peaks at 92% in 60-69 year olds survival falls thereafter, reaching its lowest point of 70% in 80-99 year-olds for patients diagnosed with breast cancer in England during 2009-2013.
Breast Cancer , Five-Year Net Survival by Age, Women, England, 2009-2013
Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Advanced breast cancer refers to cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body. This process of spreading from the original location to a new location is known as metastasis.
The most common places of breast cancer spread include the bones, liver, lung, and brain. However, breast cancer may also spread to other organs.
The majority of women who are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer have been diagnosed with an earlier stage of breast cancer before. In this instance, the original cancer in the breast is called the primary cancer. However, for some women, a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer may be their first diagnosis of cancer .
Treatment For Advanced 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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It Can Never Be Just A Cold Again
Because shes had a double mastectomy, mammograms are no longer an effective way to detect recurrences.
If my cancer returns, the breast cancer will have spread to my bones, lungs, or liver, she says.
This means she needs to pay particular attention to any bodily aches and pains. In the back of her mind, whenever Crowe has a cough, a backache, or when her energy levels take a dip, she worries.
How Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Treated
The main treatment for metastatic breast cancer is systemic therapy. These therapies treat the entire body. Systemic treatments may include a combination of:
Your care team will plan your treatment based on:
- Body parts cancer has reached.
- Past breast cancer treatments.
- Tumor biology, or how the cancer cells look and behave.
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Keeping Personal Health Records
You and your doctor should work together to develop a personalized follow-up care plan. Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about your future physical or emotional health. ASCO offers forms to help keep track of the cancer treatment you received and develop a survivorship care plan when treatment is completed. At the conclusion of active treatment, ask your doctor to provide you with a treatment summary and a survivorship care plan.
This is also a good time to talk with your doctor about who will lead your follow-up care. Some survivors continue to see their oncologist, while others transition back to the care of their family doctor, another health care professional, or a specialized survivorship clinic. This decision depends on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, side effects, health insurance rules, and your personal preferences.If a doctor who was not directly involved in your cancer care will lead your follow-up care, be sure to share your cancer treatment summary and survivorship care plan forms with them and with all future health care providers. Details about your cancer treatment are very valuable to the health care professionals who will care for you throughout your lifetime.
The next section in this guide is Survivorship. It describes how to cope with challenges in everyday life after a cancer diagnosis. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.
Is It Remission Or Cancer
Happily, the liver cyst was gone the next time I was imaged, and I began the next phase of my cancer journey: complete remission. Among patients, there is much confusion about the difference between being in remission and being cancer-free, and even doctors may use the terminology differently.
According to the NCI, remission is different from being cancer-free. Remission means that the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced or gone, and the remission can be partial or complete. Complete remission means that tests, physical exams and scans show that all clinical signs of your cancer are gone. Some doctors also refer to complete remission as no evidence of disease . Cancer that comes back usually after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected is referred to as recurrent. The cancer may come back to the same place as the original primary tumor or to another place in the body. If you remain in complete remission for five years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured, or cancer-free.
So, on that continuum from diagnosis to reaching the magical five-year cancer-free mark, when did I finally consider myself a survivor? For me, that happy day came a year after my initial diagnosis, when all my tests and exams came back with good results and my chest port was finally removed.
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What To Expect After A Tumor Marker Test
When your blood draw is over, your blood sample will be sent to a lab to be tested for tumor markers. The results will be sent to your doctor, who will contact you to go over them.
Its possible that youll experience bruising or swelling in the area around where the needle was inserted. This will typically go away after a day or so.
The time that it takes to receive your results depends on the laboratory doing the test. Your doctor can let you know when to expect your results. When the results are ready, theyll contact you to go over them.
Since tumor markers are associated with cancer cells, higher results can be an indicator that:
- your current treatment isnt working effectively
- a greater amount of cancer is present
- your cancer is spreading to other areas
The table below shows the normal versus high test result values for some of the tumor markers mentioned earlier.
Understanding Statistics About Survival
Doctors estimate prognosis by using statistics that researchers have collected over many years about people with the same type of cancer. Several types of statistics may be used to estimate prognosis. The most commonly used statistics include:
- Cancer-specific survivalThis is the percentage of patients with a specific type and stage of cancer who have not died from their cancer during a certain period of time after diagnosis. The period of time may be 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, etc., with 5 years being the time period most often used. Cancer-specific survival is also called disease-specific survival. In most cases, cancer-specific survival is based on causes of death listed in medical records.
- Relative survivalThis statistic is another method used to estimate cancer-specific survival that does not use information about the cause of death. It is the percentage of cancer patients who have survived for a certain period of time after diagnosis compared to people who do not have cancer.
- Disease-free survivalThis statistic is the percentage of patients who have no signs of cancer during a certain period of time after treatment. Other names for this statistic are recurrence-free or progression-free survival.
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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:
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.
Four Steps To Avoid A Recurrence
Theres nothing you can do to guarantee that your cancer wont come back, but you can make some changes to help you feel your best after cancer treatment and keep your body stay strong.
Eat a balanced diet. Reach for a colorful mix of fruits and vegetables, good sources of fiber like beans and peas, and whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice every day. Avoid or limit drinks that are high in sugar and red or processed meat like beef, pork, hot dogs and sausages. You probably dont need to take vitamin or mineral supplements, unless your care team suggests them. In fact, taking more of certain vitamins or minerals than you need can have a negative effect on your cancer recovery, so be sure to discuss any supplements youre considering with your care team before taking them.
Exercise on most days of the week. Being active can improve your mood, boost self-esteem and reduce fatigue. Its even been shown to lower anxiety and depression and relieve nausea, pain and diarrhea.
Lean on a strong support system. Cancer might be all about the cellular changes in your body, but you know it certainly doesnt stop there. Taking care of your emotional health, whether it be cultivating a strong circle of friends and family as support or getting mental health services, can help you manage the stressors that cancer treatment and recovery can bring.
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Ovarian Ablation Or Suppression
In women who have not yet experienced the menopause, oestrogen is produced by the ovaries.
Ovarian ablation or suppression stops the ovaries working and producing oestrogen.
Ablation can be done using surgery or radiotherapy. It permanently stops the ovaries from working and means you’ll experience the menopause early.
Ovarian suppression involves using a medicine called goserelin, which is a luteinising hormone-releasing hormone agonist .
Your periods will stop while you’re taking it, although they should start again once your treatment is complete.
If you’re approaching the menopause , your periods may not start again after you stop taking goserelin.
Goserelin comes as an injection you have once a month.
Cancer Cure And All Clear
Many people who have cancer want to know if theyre cured. You may hear words like cure and all clear in the media.
Cured means theres no chance of the breast cancer coming back. However, its not possible to be sure that breast cancer will never come back. Treatment for breast cancer will be successful for most people, and the risk of recurrence gets less as time goes on. Recurrence, unfortunately, can happen even many years after treatment, so no one can say with certainty that youre definitely cured.
All clear, or in remission which is another term you may have heard used, means theres no obvious sign of cancer at the moment.
If your breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body this will affect your prognosis. Secondary breast cancer can be treated, sometimes for many years, but not cured. Find out more about secondary breast cancer.
In order to be as clear as possible, your treatment team is more likely to talk about your chances of survival over a period of time or the possibility of remaining free of breast cancer in the future.
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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.
How Is Prognosis Estimated
Prognosis is estimated by looking at what has happened over many years to large groups of people diagnosed with a similar cancer. However, everyones situation is different so no one can say for certain what will happen to you. Also, treatments and survival rates are constantly improving, which affects the accuracy of estimates for people being treated today.
Prognosis is described in different ways. It may be put into words or numbers. Its often expressed as a five- or ten-year survival rate. This is an estimate of how many people are likely to be alive five or ten years following their diagnosis.
A 90% five-year survival rate means that 90 out of 100 people diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to be alive five years after their diagnosis. It doesnt mean these people will only live for five years it just states how many people are likely to be alive at that point.
Cancer Research UK has general statistics on five- and ten-year breast cancer survival rates on their website. Remember, these statistics are based on large groups of patients and cannot predict what will happen in your individual case.
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Are There Ways To Stop Cancer From Reoccurring
As previously noted, it may be recommended for some patients to continue treatment even after they have achieved a complete response. Because there is potential for cancer to return after remission, its important for patients to continue to see their cancer care team for follow-up care. These ongoing visits offer an opportunity to check on a patients overall health, monitor them for late- or long-term side effects of treatment, and assess any signs of disease recurrence. They also allow patients to have ongoing conversations with their care team and alert them of any concerning symptoms or developments.
The Return Of A Disease Thought Defeated
Crowes cancer was finally defeated after a year of chemo. She followed up with her doctor and her scans continued to read clean for four years, drawing close to the milestone five-year mark. For many cancer survivors, reaching five years without recurrence means a higher chance of improved survival rates.
So it was devastating news when Crowes health took a drastic turn, and her breast cancer returned.
This time, her doctor recommended a double mastectomy and an aromatase inhibitor. An aromatase inhibitor is a medication that helps block estrogen, a hormone that stimulates cancer growth. The treatments worked. Crowes cancer is now in remission again.
But being in remission isnt the same as being cured, and the possibility of recurrence significantly alters how a person experiences their day-to-day life. While Crowe doesnt experience the usual symptoms of breast cancer anymore, feelings of uncertainty still loom over her perspective in many ways.
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Mentally Transitioning To Survivorship
Transitioning from active patient to survivor is an achievement worth celebrating. However, many patients will experience mixed emotions at this milestone. Its perfectly OK and normal to be overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, or even scared following what many perceive as a joyous moment: the end of treatment.
According to Ashley Boyd Fermin, LICSW, a clinical social worker at Dana-Farber, the number one thing patients transitioning into survivorship can do is reach out for support. You are not alone at the conclusion of treatment, and its OK to continue to ask for help.
That help can come in many forms. Perhaps its attending a support group, talking with someone you trust, or working with a social worker or therapist. Your oncologist will be able to connect you with someone who is clinically trained to help you work through your emotions.
What Does It Mean To Be In Remission
Cancer is said to be in remission when the signs and symptoms of the disease have decreased or resolved. If the cancer is a solid mass such as a tumor in the lung or breast remission means the mass has shrunk. If it is a hematologic cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma, remission notes a drop in the number of cancer cells throughout the body.
Generally, a decrease in cancer has to last for at least a month to be considered a clinical remission.
Its important to note that the term remission is typically used only when referring to blood cancers. In the case of solid tumors, oncologists often note what type of response the patient has had to treatment. If the treatment has worked entirely, the patient will be told they had a complete response or there is no evidence of disease. If the treatment has worked partially, the patient will be told they had a partial response.
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Understanding The Difference Between Cure And Remission
Cure means that there are no traces of your cancer after treatment and the cancer will never come back.
Remission means that the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced. Remission can be partial or complete. In a complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared.
If you remain in complete remission for 5 years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured. Still, some cancer cells can remain in your body for many years after treatment. These cells may cause the cancer to come back one day. For cancers that return, most do so within the first 5 years after treatment. But, there is a chance that cancer will come back later. For this reason, doctors cannot say for sure that you are cured. The most they can say is that there are no signs of cancer at this time.
Because of the chance that cancer can come back, your doctor will monitor you for many years and do tests to look for signs of cancers return. They will also look for signs of late side effects from the cancer treatments you received.