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).
As hard as it is to hear, metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured. This does not mean, however, that metastatic breast cancer cannot be treated. Treatment of metastatic breast cancer focuses on length and quality of life.
“Quality of life” describes your overall well-being, including:
Non-health related issues (such as financial concerns) are also part of quality of life.
Managing side effects and other issues that have a negative impact on your quality of life is a main part of metastatic breast cancer care.
Although important for everyone with breast cancer, quality of life issues are especially important for people with metastatic breast cancer.
You should never feel that you have to endure pain or other side effects. Talk with your health care provider about any issues affecting your quality of life.
At some point, you may decide to stop treatments for the cancer. This can happen when treatment stops showing any benefit or when it greatly affects quality of life.
Once treatment is stopped, reducing any symptoms you have (palliative care ) becomes the main focus, rather than just a part of treatment.
This can be a very difficult time. Your health care provider or hospital can arrange for counseling or a support group to help you during this stage of cancer care.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) website has information on end-of-life planning and care, including questions to ask your provider.
The American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has a guide for patients and their families to help make decisions on end-of-life care.
Learn more about support groups, hospice and other types of support.
Komen Support Resources
Metastatic Breast Cancer
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