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.
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.
It’s estimated that 34 percent of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. have lived at least 5 years since their diagnosis . Some women may live 10 or more years beyond diagnosis .
Learn about treatment for 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, this doesn’t mean metastatic breast cancer can’t be treated. Treatment focuses on length and quality of life.
Your personal preferences now play a larger role in your treatment and care than perhaps they did before (with early breast cancer). 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 regularly with your oncologist throughout your treatment. Your oncologist will become a big part of your life. He or she will get to know you inside and out. So, it’s important to feel comfortable talking with him or her about your care, your physical health and how you are doing emotionally.
Your oncologist will discuss your treatment options (and their possible benefits and risks) with you. They will also address any issues regarding your quality of life. Other health care providers, especially your nurses, 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 also be helpful to download and print our Questions to Ask Your Doctor card on metastatic breast cancer. You can take it with you to your next doctor appointment. There’s plenty of space to write down answers to the questions, which you can refer to later.
You can also download other Questions to Ask Your Doctor cards on many different breast cancer topics, such as our Questions to Ask Your Doctor card on clinical trials. These cards are a nice tool for people beginning to gather information about their diagnosis and treatment.
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 email@example.com.
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. 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 people 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
Research Fast Facts
Facts for Life: Metastatic Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Information Helpline
Metastatic Breast Cancer Progress
What would you tell someone about living with stage IV breast cancer?