A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is devastating. You’re processing a lot of information and dealing with many emotions. You may feel overwhelmed and scared, but you’re not alone. And, you did nothing to cause the cancer to spread. This is not your fault!
There are many new and ongoing scientific discoveries improving metastatic breast cancer treatment and offering hope to many.
You may have been diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago or perhaps you’ve only recently completed treatment for early breast cancer. For some, this is your first breast cancer diagnosis, which can be especially shocking. No matter your situation, the diagnosis is difficult.
Take time to process the information from your health care provider. You may want to get a second opinion to get a different insight into your diagnosis and treatment options. When you’re ready, learn about your treatment options and other parts of your care, such as managing side effects. This may help you feel in control and feel better prepared to face the challenges ahead.
Most metastatic breast cancers are breast cancer cells that remained in the body after treatment for early breast cancer. The breast cancer cells were always there, but were dormant (inactive) and could not be detected. Then for some unknown reason, the cancer cells began to grow again. This process is not well-understood at this time.
Learn more about getting a second opinion.
Modern treatments continue to improve survival for most people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. However, survival varies greatly from person to person.
About one third of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. live at least 5 years after diagnosis . Some women may live 10 or more years beyond diagnosis .
If you have questions about your prognosis, talk with your health care provider.
Learn about treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Sandi Spivey, 20+ year survivor living with metastatic breast cancer
"When you’re diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, it’s normal to grieve. You grieve the life you expected to have. Now all of that has changed. You have to process this grief before you can heal. Although the grief never ends, it gets less intense over time.
You may feel guilty about being ill, even though it’s not your fault. Palliative care can help you find a way to move past these feelings. Then you can figure out how you want to live the rest of the chapters in your life-book."
As hard as it is to hear, metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured today. Unlike breast cancer that remains in the breast or nearby lymph nodes, you cannot get rid of all the cancer that has spread to other organs.
However, metastatic breast cancer can be treated. Treatment focuses on length and quality of life.
Your personal preferences play a large role in your treatment and care. Talk with your oncologist and other health care providers about your goals and the things that are important to you (avoiding some side effects, for example). This will help your providers tailor your treatments to your preferences.
If you haven’t started treatment yet, you may want to consider a clinical trial. Learn about clinical trials for people with metastatic breast cancer and access Metastatic Trial Search, a web-based personalized clinical trial matching tool.
You’ll meet with your oncologist and other health care providers, such as your nurses, often. They will become a big part of your life. So, it’s important to feel comfortable talking with them about your care, your physical health and how you're doing emotionally.
Your oncologist will discuss your treatment options (and their possible benefits and risks) with you. Your oncologist or nurse can also help you make a timeline of any tests or exams that are needed before starting any treatment. This will help you know what to expect for each treatment.
They will also address any quality of life issues.
Other health care providers can discuss these things with you too.
It’s always OK to get a second opinion at any point during your care. A second opinion may give you a different insight into your diagnosis and may increase your options for care.
Also, if you’re not happy with the care you’re receiving or you’re not connecting with your provider, seek a second opinion.
You’re processing a lot of information and dealing with many emotions.
You may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what questions to ask your oncologist, nurse or other providers. We have a list of questions to ask your health care providers about your diagnosis and treatment.
It may be helpful to download and print Susan G. Komen®'s Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Metastatic Breast Cancer resource and take it with you to your next doctor appointment. There's plenty of space to write down the answers to these questions, which you can refer to later.
There are other Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources on many different breast cancer topics, such as our Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Clinical Trials resource, you may wish to download. They are a nice tool for people recently diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, who may be too overwhelmed to know where to begin to gather information.
Many new treatments for metastatic breast cancer are under study in clinical trials. Most of these are drug therapies.
Clinical trials offer the chance to try new treatments and possibly benefit from them. If you haven’t started treatment yet, now is a good time to talk with your oncologist about clinical trials. There may be a clinical trial that would be a good option as a first treatment for you.
If you’ve already started treatment, talk with your oncologist about clinical trials that may offer treatment options later.
Learn about clinical trials for people with metastatic breast cancer and access Metastatic Trial Search, a web-based personalized clinical trial matching tool.
Susan G. Komen® Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Information Helpline
If you or a loved one needs information or resources about clinical trials, call our Clinical Trial Information Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877- 465- 6636) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The helpline offers breast cancer clinical trial education and support, such as:
Treatments for metastatic breast cancer and the cancer itself can cause side effects.
Your health care providers can help control pain or other side effects (this is called palliative care). So, it’s important to tell them about any side effects you have.
Learn how pain is managed.
Learn how other side effects are managed.
Learn about quality of life issues.
It’s also important to let your providers know how you are feeling emotionally.
It’s common to be depressed. Depression can (and needs to) be treated.
Learn more about depression.
Learn about coping with stress.
It’s natural to worry about end-of-life issues. We have some information that may help.
Learn about end-of-life care and hospice.
Many women and men have been where you are today. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 154,000 women in the U.S. have metastatic breast cancer .
It may be helpful to talk with others. A cancer support group may help. Your health care provider may be able to help you find a local support group.
Your health care provider may also be able to help you find a counselor if meeting in a one-on-one setting is better for you.
Learn more about support groups, counseling and other types of support for people with metastatic breast cancer.
Learn about social support for loved ones.
SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES
Learn more about what Komen is doing to help people with metastatic breast cancer.
Metastatic Breast Cancer
Facts for Life: Metastatic Breast Cancer
Research Fast Facts
Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Information Helpline
Metastatic Breast Cancer Progress
What would you tell someone about living with stage IV breast cancer?