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Breast Cancer, Metastatic or Recurrent - Treatment Overview

If you have recently been diagnosed with metastatic or recurrent breast cancer, you may have many emotions. There is no "normal" or "right" way to react. You may feel angry or frustrated and may second-guess your previous treatments. Or you may feel hopeless.

But there are treatments that help. Some recurrent breast cancers can be successfully treated. Other recurrent breast cancers and metastatic breast cancer usually can't be cured. With these cancers, treatment is focused on keeping the cancer from getting worse. This includes helping women live as long as possible and with a good quality of life.

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WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me & the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer survivor Ilene Smith, MS, RD, 49, lives in the New York area. In late October 2007, Smith felt a lump in her left breast while on a conference call for work. "I got cold, and so I put my hand under my arm, and I felt...

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Types of treatment

When making decisions about treatment, you and your doctor will consider many things, such as your age and health, the type of breast cancer you have, where it is, and your preferences.

For recurrent breast cancer in the breast or chest wall, treatments may include:1

For recurrent breast cancer in other parts of the body and metastatic breast cancer, treatments may include:1

Side effects of treatment

Cancer and its treatments can be painful, but cancer pain can almost always be controlled. If you are having ongoing problems with managing pain, ask to see a pain specialist.

There are also many things you can do at home to help manage side effects of treatment. But talk to your doctor about any bothersome symptoms. Working together with your doctor can help you have the best possible quality of life.

Additional information about breast cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast.

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