Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer) is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain).
Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it is considered and treated as breast cancer. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bones is still breast cancer (not bone cancer) and is treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the bones.
Some women have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed, but this is not common in the U.S. (fewer than five percent of diagnoses) . More commonly, metastatic breast cancer arises months or years after a person has completed treatment for early or locally advanced (stage I, II or III) breast cancer. This is sometimes called distant recurrence.
Learn more about breast cancer staging.
Learn more about breast cancer recurrence.
Read our perspective on living with metastatic breast cancer(January 2014).*
Although metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured, this does not mean is cannot be treated. Treatment of metastatic breast cancer focuses on length and quality of life. Treatment is guided by many factors, including:
Learn more about treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Learn more about quality of life.
Learn more about support groups and other sources of assistance and support.
Survival for metastatic breast cancer varies greatly from person to person.
One large study found that about 15 percent of women lived at least five years after diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer . Some women may live 10 or more years beyond diagnosis . It is important to note that all these findings are based on women diagnosed before some of the newer treatments for metastatic breast cancer were available.
Modern treatments for both early-stage and metastatic breast cancer likely mean improved survival for women diagnosed today.
Chronicles of Hope
*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.
Facts for Life: Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metasatic Breast Cancer
Questions to Ask Your Doctor, Metastatic Breast Cancer
How has having breast cancer changed your outlook?