Being told you have metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer is a lot to take in. It means your cancer has spread to other parts of your body. There is no cure, but your doctor has ways to slow the disease's growth. You might live for many more years.
Thanks to better treatments, people are living longer than ever.
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 Zunilda Guzman, 39, lives in the Miami area. Guzman noticed a lump on her chest in April 2008 and thought it might be related to her breast implants. She asked her gynecologist to schedule a mammogram, and the...
To manage your treatment and life on your own terms, learn about the disease and what to expect.
What’s Different About Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment?
When you have early-stage cancer, your treatment is short-term and focused on a cure.
With stage IV breast cancer, some form of treatment will be a part of your life from now on. The goal is to slow the disease’s growth for as long as possible, with the least amount of side effects or pain.
As medical therapies improve, experts hope that this form of cancer someday will be treated like diabetes or other ongoing, "chronic" conditions, where the disease is managed for several years or even decades.
How Is It Treated?
The options your doctor recommends for you will depend on:
That decision is up to you. Doctors will offer you choices based on your unique situation. Find out as much as you can about your options, and make sure you know the side effects before you make decisions.
These common treatments are often used alone or in combination:
Hormone therapy. If your cancer is fueled by estrogen or progesterone, hormone therapy medications can help shrink the tumors. They starve cancer cells by cutting off the supply of hormones they need to grow.
Anti-HER2 targeted treatment. Some breast cancer cells have too much of a protein called HER2. This makes them more likely to grow and spread. Drugs that target this protein can help slow the growth of HER2-positive breast cancers.