Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Your Treatment Options for Advanced Breast Cancer

By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Angela Jain

When you find out you have advanced breast cancer, called metastatic or stage IV cancer, you probably have a lot of questions. That's understandable.

"The goals of therapy are to prolong life while at the same time maintaining a good quality of life," says Julie Gralow, MD, of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Though there is no cure, "there is no question that patients are living longer with metastatic disease, and our patients have many more treatment options than even just a few years ago," Gralow says.

It helps to know about each of those options, so you're prepared to talk about the plan your doctor recommends. Remember that every case is different, so your treatment may not be the same as that of another person with breast cancer. You should talk to your doctor about which treatment is right for you.

 

Surgery

Most people with breast cancer will need surgery on their affected breast or breasts. In rare cases, your doctor may also recommend surgery to remove a tumor that's spread to another organ. They typically recommend that if the breast cancer is very limited in its spread.

"When that happens, we can sometimes go in and remove that -- for example, if there's just one small spot on the liver," Gralow says.

Surgery may also help if you have stubborn pain, a weak bone that needs to be stabilized, or another problem.

 

Radiation

You can't get radiation therapy on a breast that's had radiation before. But you may need radiation to shrink tumors in other parts of your body.  It can:

  • Stop the cancer from growing and keep symptoms under control. You might, for example, get radiation on a tumor that presses on your backbone to make you more comfortable.
  • Control bleeding or pain from cancer that's spread to the bone or liver.

For some people, doctors may use "stereotactic" treatment -- highly focused radiation -- to target spots in the liver or the lungs.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW