Survival Rate With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Many people wonder about the life expectancy for stage 4 breast cancer . It’s important to note that everyone is different and survival rates vary widely. There are some people who survive many years and even decades with stage 4 disease. At the same time, it’s important to understand that stage 4 breast cancer isn’t curable.
It can be helpful to look at current statistics and consider the many variables that affect life expectancy. While it’s important not to raise false hope, it may help to know the reality that there are some long-term survivors.
Some people want to know the statistics, but many don’t. If you’re living with stage 4 breast cancer, there is absolutely no requirement that you know the prognosis. The information provided here is only for those who truly wish to know what the current research iseven this research has many limitations.
Survival Rates For Breast Cancer
Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time after they were diagnosed. They cant tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.
Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific cancer, but they cant predict what will happen in any particular persons case. These statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor about how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.
Getting A Breast Biopsy
In a breast;biopsy, the doctor takes out small pieces of breast tissue to check them for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if you have breast cancer.
There are many types of biopsies. Ask your doctor what kind you will need. Each type has risks and benefits. The choice of which type to use depends on your own case.
Sometimes, surgery is needed to take out all or part of the lump to find out if its cancer. This is often done in a hospital using local anesthesia . You might also be given medicine to make you sleepy.
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What Is Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Also known as metastatic breast cancer, the cancer in this stage has spread beyond the breast, underarm and internal mammary lymph nodes to other parts of the body near to or distant from the breast. The cancer has spread elsewhere in the body. The affected areas may include the bones, brain, lungs or liver and more than one part of the body may be involved.
At stage 4, TNM designations help describe the extent of the disease. Higher numbers indicate more extensive disease. Most commonly, stage 4 breast cancer is described as:,
- T: T1, T2, T3 or T4 depends on the size and/or extent of the primary tumor.
- N1: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- M1: The disease has spread to other sites in the body.
Treatment Starts With Hope
Sofia Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., medical oncologist and scientific director of the Rogel Cancer Centers breast oncology program, approaches each patients cancer individually and does not think predictions make sense until treatment begins.
Joses treatment plan included four rounds of chemotherapy, which reduced her 5-centimeter tumor to undetectable.
I wanted to immediately convey to Heather that wed have a long road together, including the medical center helping her family get through this challenge. Thats why I wanted to know about her husband and family members, says Merajver. In addition to giving her confidence that weve seen her disease before, a first step is to begin to recruit the social support the patient needs.
Because Joses cancer had spread, she knew not to expect to be cured. She had a double mastectomy, received radiation therapy and joined a clinical trial to receive two stem cell transplants. There have been several recurrences over the years, but each has been managed as treatment progresses for metastatic breast cancer.
The goal for me is to hear that my scans are stable. Stable means good, Jose says.
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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.
Know Your Cancer Risks And Take Action
There are many causes of cancer, but overall it’s thought that most cancers are “multifactorialmeaning that many factors work together to either increase or decrease the risk of the disease.
Cancer can be the result of genetic mutations, viruses, or environmental carcinogens.;The;Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention;offers an interactive tool to help you determine your level of risk for 12 different types of cancer.
Take the time to ask questions about cancers your relatives have had. This includes not just cancers such as breast cancer. Sometimes cancer runs in family, but different members develop different types of cancer. Learn about your genetic blueprint and cancer.
It’s also important to be aware of conditions you may have which raise your cancer risk. For example, having diabetes increases the risk of pancreatic cancer and having inflammatory bowel disease may increase your risk of colon cancer.
See if you have any environmental exposures which may predispose you to cancer, and take action. Stop smoking if you smoke. Clean up your diet. Exercise. Do whatever is necessary to make sure your health is your number one priority.
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Take Action To Change Young Adult Breast Cancer Statistics
When all young adults affected by breast cancer work together, we can raise awareness, improve our representation in research and make each other stronger. We are dedicated to these goals, working to turn our unique challenges into opportunities for shared success. Join the movement! Become an advocate for young women with breast cancer.
Dont Ignore The Health Of The Rest Of Your Body
Lots of times, we tend to only focus on our cancer symptoms or think that every symptom is cancer-related. However, Ive found that its important to still maintain a relationship with my primary care provider. My primary care provider helps keep me up to date on vaccinations and monitors my preventive screenings, such as colonoscopies and Pap tests. They also evaluate me for conditions such as arthritis, blood pressure, and diabetes. In my case, the medications I take for cancer have now, after long-term treatment, increased my risk of high blood pressure. Because of that, I now must take a low-dose blood pressure medication, which will help prevent me from having a blood clot, heart attack, or stroke.
Protect the health of the rest of your body. Always get your preventive health screenings and manage current and future health conditions.
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What Is The Average Stage Four Cancer Life Expectancy
There is no average stage four cancer life expectancy which is relevant amongst all types of cancer. Some cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, have a very short expected survival rate while others, such as testicular cancer, may have a high survival rate. Many patients who are diagnosed with stage four cancer will not live one year. Others may survive five years, or more, depending on where the primary cancer is located and where it has spread.
Cancer is classified as being in stage four when cancer cells have spread from the original, or primary, location to other areas of the body. This would include areas which are farthest from the site of the primary cancer. The overall stage four life expectancy is much lower than that of lower stages of cancer. Many patients die well before five years, with many passing after only a few months to one year.
Some types of cancer may be more responsive to treatments than others, even in the later stages. Cancer of the testes are one example. The overall five year survival rate for testicular cancer patients with stage four disease is 95%.
How Can A Genomic Oncotype Dx Test Be Helpful
Patients who have a small, estrogen receptor positive, HER2 receptor negative tumor and no evidence of cancer in their lymph nodes may benefit from an Oncotype DX genomic assay. This cutting-edge test looks deeper into breast;cancer cells to better identify people who may benefit from chemotherapy with ER+, HER2 breast cancers. The results of this test can also confirm that only hormonal therapy will be needed. Our video lesson on Genomic Assays provides much more detail about these advances in breast cancer care.
- You will find well-organized guides on breast cancer treatment by stage. Follow the prompts to breast cancer and then stage in the dropdown menus. The NCCN is a consortium of organizations and governmental agencies to promote quality breast cancer care.
- Their section on Chemotherapy is comprehensive and has great detail . The American Society of Clinical Oncologists is a leading organization of clinicians who care for people with cancer.
An outline of Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer is provided . The American Cancer Society is an organization that supports patients with cancer and funds research for cancer of all types.
Teaching everyone to be an expert in their own breast cancer care.
All information is designed to help patients engage their physicians in discussions about treatment options. No professional services or specific care recommendations are intended or offered.
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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.
What Does Surviving Cancer Mean
Google surviving and youll likely find this definition: Continuing to live or exist, especially in the face of hardship.
Through my own cancer battles and in talking with those impacted by cancer, Ive found that this word means many things to many people. When I asked what surviving means within the medical community, my doctor said surviving cancer meant:
- Youre still alive.
- Youre going through the steps from diagnosis to treatment.
- You have multiple options with the expectations of positive results.
- Youre striving for a cure.
- You arent expected to die.
When speaking with fellow cancer warriors in my many times in the hospital waiting room, I found that they often had a different definition of what it meant to survive. To many, it simply meant:
- waking up each day
- being able to get out of bed
- completing activities of daily living
- eating and drinking without vomiting
Ive talked with hundreds of people undergoing treatment over the past 40 years in my journey with different bouts of cancer. The severity and type of cancer aside, Ive found that my survival has also depended on factors beyond the disease itself, including:
- my treatments
- my relationship with my doctor
- my relationship with the rest of the medical team
- my quality of life outside of my medical conditions
Many people over the years have told me that surviving simply means not dying. Many said they never considered there was anything else to consider.
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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 Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosed
If you have symptoms of metastatic breast cancer, your provider may recommend tests including:
- Blood tests, including complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic panel.
- Imaging studies, including MRI, CT, bone scan and PET.
- Bronchoscopy, which uses a scope to look inside your lungs this can be done if there is a concerning spot in the lungs.
- Biopsy to remove tissue from a suspicious area and analyze it.
- A tap to remove fluid from an area with symptoms. For example, pleural tap removes fluid from the lung area. Spinal tap removes fluid from the spinal cord area.
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Improving Your Quality Of Life
Quality of life is a term that is used a lot with metastatic disease, but it should be a common term for others too. I always go by the life motto of, Enjoy life. I do not take this lightly. I know there will come a time where I wont be able to do what I am capable of doing today. This can all drastically change even in a week. Shoot, I could even be dead in a week. Cancer progression is a scary concept. At any point, the cancer can spread to other places or grow bigger in the same locations of the body, such as the lungs, brain, liver, and bones. So, I must do as much as I can while I can, until I cant.
To other people living with metastatic disease, my advice would be to live life on purpose the way you desire. Dont let others place what you should be doing onto you. If you want to eat cake today, eat cake, because tomorrow you may not have an appetite. If you want to travel and the risk is lower and the benefit is higher, then travel.
The only thing guaranteed in this world is death. So, until that day has come for me, Ill live it up and do what gives me joy despite all the everyday stressors. I read daily inspirational writings on how not to care so much what others think of me. I am genuinely me.
How Common Is Breast Cancer Recurrence
Most local recurrences of breast cancer occur within five years of a lumpectomy. You can lower your risk by getting radiation therapy afterward. You have a 3% to 15% chance of breast cancer recurrence within 10 years with this combined treatment. Based on genetic testing, your provider may recommend additional treatments to further reduce your risk.
Recurrence rates for people who have mastectomies vary:
- There is a 6% chance of cancer returning within five years if the healthcare providers didnt find cancer in axillary lymph nodes during the original surgery.
- There is a one in four chance of cancer recurrence if axillary lymph nodes are cancerous. This risk drops to 6% if you get radiation therapy after the mastectomy.
What Affects Prognosis
There are a number of factors that affect breast cancer prognosis. These include:
- the;type;of breast cancer
- the;grade;of the breast cancer
- the;size;of the breast cancer
Other factors that may affect your prognosis include your age, menopausal status , lifestyle factors and your general health.
All of these factors will be considered when estimating your prognosis and deciding what;treatment;youre offered.
From Cured To Stage 4
Others, like Teri Pollastro, a 54-year-old stage 4 patient from Seattle, respond surprisingly well.
Diagnosed with early stage ductal carcinoma in situ in 1999, Pollastro underwent a mastectomy but did not receive chemotherapy, radiation or tamoxifen, since her cancer was ER negative.
âThey used the C-word with me, they told me I was cured,â she said. âEvery time I went back to my oncologist, he would roll his eyes at me when I had questions.â
In 2003, Pollastro switched to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where she saw Dr. Julie Gralow, a breast cancer oncologist and clinical researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Gralow discovered Pollastroâs cancer had metastasized to her liver.
âMy husband and I were in shock,â said Pollastro of her mets diagnosis. âYou donât go from being cured to stage 4.â
Pollastro went on Herceptin, a type of immunotherapy for women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, and did six months of chemotherapy.
âI felt better right away with the treatment,â she said. âBut the problem is, it stopped . Thatâs what you can expect with mets. And thereâs always some residual cancer. And that starts percolating.â
And along with mets, she also had to deal with many misconceptions regarding her disease.
The Mercer Island, Washington, mother of two, who often counsels newly diagnosed patients, sometimes even found it difficult to relate to early stage breast cancer survivors.
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