What is metastatic breast cancer?

Although metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured, it can be treated with a regimen that focuses on prolonging life and maintaining quality of life.

Metastatic breast cancer, also classified as stage 4 breast cancer, means that the cancer has spread from your breast to distant organs, such as your bones, lungs, or other parts of your body.

In some patients, metastatic cancer is first discovered at the initial diagnosis of breast cancer, but in most patients, metastatic cancer occurs because previous treatment did not kill all the cancer cells. Sometimes, a few cells remain dormant or hidden and undetectable. Then, for reasons that providers don’t fully understand, the cells begin to grow and spread again.

About 170,000 people in the United States are living with metastatic breast cancer. Fewer than 1 in 3 women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer later develop metastatic breast cancer.

Currently, there are no proven ways to prevent metastatic breast cancer. But researchers are working on treatments that can prevent the cancer from spreading (metastasizing) and/or coming back (recurring).

Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer depend on where the cancer cells have invaded;

Symptoms of bone metastases.

  • Bone pain
  • Bones that break or fracture more easily
  • Tumor

Symptoms of brain metastases.

Symptoms of liver metastases.

Symptoms of lung metastases.

Other symptoms of metastatic breast cancer:

If your doctor has reason to suspect that your disease has metastasized and you have any of the above signs that your breast cancer has spread, your doctor may perform further tests. These include imaging tests, blood tests, and a biopsy of a suspected metastatic lesion.

Some people are at higher risk of metastatic cancer even after completing initial cancer treatment. The risk depends on various characteristics of the cancer, including the characteristics of the tumor (the type of cancer cells), the stage at which you were first diagnosed, and the treatments you received.

Systemic drug therapies are the mainstay of treatment for women with metastatic breast cancer. These may include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy, or combinations thereof. Surgery and/or radiation therapy may be helpful in certain situations.

Although systemic drugs are the main treatment for metastatic breast cancer, local and regional treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, or regional chemotherapy are also sometimes used. These can help treat breast cancer in a specific area of ​​the body, but they are unlikely to get rid of all the cancer.

Several potential new treatments for metastatic breast cancer are being evaluated in clinical trials. Many of these are drug therapies, including multiple breast cancer studies found on Gilead’s clinical trials website.

The right treatment plan can improve survival for people with metastatic breast cancer. However, survival rates vary and depend on a number of factors, including the type/biology of breast cancer, body parts involved, and individual characteristics.

Living with metastatic breast cancer can be difficult. Your care team can help provide physical and emotional support in addition to cancer treatment. Talk to them as you can.

    • Eat the most nutritious diet for your needs
    • Exercise regularly
  • Manage stress
  • Get emotional support, including finding support groups
  • Enlist the help of friends, family and loved ones
  • Find mental health services
  • Find complementary therapy

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