For every fact out there about metastatic breast cancer, there are misunderstandings that say the opposite. As you learn about your diagnosis and share your news with others, you'll hear plenty of both.

With such a serious condition, you’ll want to do everything you can to know what’s true and what’s not.

Myth: My cancer spread because I got the wrong treatment.

Truth: If you had breast cancer before and now it’s metastatic, it’s understandable if you’re rethinking your original advice and decisions. But give yourself a break: Your metastatic cancer diagnosis doesn't mean you or your doctors chose the wrong treatment.

If even one cancer cell avoids radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery, it can spread and grow a tumor. Cancer treatments do a lot to make that less likely. But none, even surgery, get rid of all risk.

Myth: There's no treatment.

Truth: Metastatic breast cancer can't be cured, but it can be treated.

How you fare with metastatic cancer depends on many things, including your age, health, other conditions, and access to medical care. But about one-third of the people with this diagnosis have lived with it for at least 5 years.

It may help to remember that survival rates are about big groups of people and don’t predict what will happen to any specific person. Your doctor can give you a better sense of how you may do (your “prognosis”) or a survival range, but a lot will depend on how your treatment goes.

Myth: All metastatic breast cancers need the same treatment.

Truth: There's no one-size-fits-all approach for any kind of cancer.

There are so many different treatment options for advanced breast cancer that some are used together. If one doesn't work or stops working, there's usually another treatment to try. Or you may have other health conditions that your doctor is also keeping in mind when recommending your plan. So if your treatment isn’t the same as someone else's, that could be why.

Myth: Taking a break from treatment will set me back.

Truth: Though treatment is trying to shrink the cancer and slow its growth, it can be hard on your body. Your mind may not want to stop, but your body likely will. This is a big part of your quality of life.

Talk to your health care team about scheduling breaks between treatments. This way the cancer's being controlled while your body recovers.

Myth: Metastatic means I have to have a mastectomy.

Truth: Metastatic breast cancer means breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body, like your bones, liver, or lungs. Treatment will depend on many things, including where the cancer has spread, previous treatments, symptoms, and what works best for your body and lifestyle. A mastectomy is not always part of the treatment plan for metastatic breast cancer. You still get to decide.

Myth: I should make treatment decisions quickly.

Truth: There are many decisions to make after an advanced cancer diagnosis. It's understandable if you want to check things off the list. But when it comes to treatment, take your time. Learn all you can about your diagnosis, treatment options, and what's ahead. Seek out a second opinion, and talk to others in your shoes. Giving yourself space to act instead of react will pay off in peace of mind.

Myth: I'm not a good fit for clinical trials.

Truth: The clinical trials of today may be the cutting-edge cancer treatments of tomorrow. Clinical trials are a consideration for everyone at every stage. Having metastatic breast cancer may exclude you from some trials but make you a perfect fit for others. Ask your doctor about your options.

Myth: Breast reconstruction isn’t an option. 

Truth: As more women live longer with metastatic breast cancer, reconstruction after mastectomy has become a more popular option. You may need to wait until after radiation or chemotherapy, as the added healing time could delay your ability to have treatment. Ask your doctor if it's an option for you.

With these or any other questions about your cancer, your medical team can also provide resources for you and your loved ones to help you all through the treatment process. Good support is also key. Surround yourself with people you trust, and seek out others who've been where you are and can help you move forward.

WebMD Medical Reference

WebMD Voices

Lisa B.
Coral Springs, FL
Within the past 14 years, I've been on chemo and hormone therapy. The part that gives me hope is new drugs and therapies are more abundant then 20 years ago, with more to come. Every day, breast cancer is my shadow, but is not my life.
Linda L.
Saddle River, NJ
Be your own advocate. If you have a question for your doctor and don't understand the answer, ask again. If it's difficult to speak up, ask a relative or friend to go with you. If you're not comfortable with your doctor or the treatment she recommends, get a second opinion.
Mary G.
Oregon, WI
Swimming helps my whole body relax and relieves my aching bones. Reaching and pulling strokes stretch out and massage my arm. Yoga keeps my breathing calmer, and I use techniques I learn in class to help me go to sleep at night.
Fabianna M.
Dover, NH
Celebrate small successes. It's about progress towards wellness, not an all-or-nothing scenario. After surgery, it was a while before I could drive. The day I got back in the driver's seat, I drove myself to the beach. I remember sitting on a bench for an hour, reveling in the joy of taking my life back.
Mary R.
Livonia, MI
When I was first diagnosed, I was in shock. Getting information helped. My husband and children helped by listening and allowing me to cry when I needed to. I also formed a support group at my hospital. Talking as a group and forming friendships is very helpful. We all know what each of us is going through.
Catriona M.
Canal Winchester, OH
Ask family and friends for help and support. It's so easy to want to try to do it all, but people really do want to help you. You'll need every ounce of strength you have, so let people bring meals and clean your house if they want to. For many, it's how they show they love and care about you.
Suzanne K.
San Francisco, CA
Put your energy elsewhere, in a better place. I got involved with new challenges that inspired me. I joined a new company. I got involved with the Cashmere Foundation, which brings the spa experience to patients undergoing chemotherapy. I feel I'm able to pay back, or perhaps pay it forward, while helping others.
Mary G.
Oregon, WI
Bring a support person to your first appointment to take notes and listen. Learn all you can on reputable websites. Breathe. Gather your inner circle of supportive friends and lean on them. It's OK to be mad as hell. There will be good and bad days. On bad days, think of the good ones just around the corner.
Sheila M.
Swansea, IL
For a very long time, I didn't accept it. When I finally did, I stopped worrying about things that were beyond my control and I started enjoying life. Having MBC has given me a new purpose through my advocacy work with Metavivor's Serenity Project. I want women to stand on my shoulders of hope and love.
Mary R.
Livonia, MI
I always feel better when I'm rested. I sleep 10-12 hours many days. Smiling and having a good sense of humor makes difficult situations better. I don't worry about small things anymore. Meditation, music, and massages help. I also cope by coloring and sewing, when I have the energy.
Sheila M.
Swansea, IL
People often tell me, "Well, you should do this or you should do that." There's no right or wrong answer on how we deal with this disease. I've learned to deal with it on my own terms and in my own way. I continue to let my faith guide me, and I continue to lean on my family and friends for support.
Lisa B.
Coral Springs, FL
In addition to treatment, I do daily meditation, which calms my body as well as my mind. I find it to be very peaceful. I also find walking and yoga to be a form of relaxation -- and it's healthy. I call it ‘doing my homework.' The drugs are doing their job, and it's my responsibility to take care of me.
Lauren H., 39
Oakley, CA
Many with stage IV hate the comment, ‘Well, you don't look sick at all!' This both implies that I should look weak and sad all the time. And since I don't, I'm throwing off their expectations of what someone with cancer should look like.
Jeanette R., 47
Advance, NC
This cancer has been an odd gift, opening my eyes to the beauty in the little everyday things in life. Slow down, pause, savor it. Repeat. … The more I pray for it and practice, the easier it gets.
Lara M., 42
Louisville, KY
The corner … I lived in fear of looking around it for nearly 5 years. Over time, I've learned how to live more fully present instead of worrying about the perceived future.
Ericia L., 42
Massillon, OH
It's about facing one's mortality while trying to keep the courage to continue on for your family. It's like walking through mud with high heels on. You slip and fall and then you get up and try again, over, and over, and over. Sometimes you stay down for a while, sometimes someone throws you a rope to help, but the mud is always there.
Suzi M., 54
White Cloud, MI
I lift up life with cancer with music! With a good soundtrack, I can get through anything. My life consists of various soundtracks that helped me through some of the most difficult times in my life.
Danielle W., 35
Green Bay, WI
Have I done everything that I wanted to do in life? Hell no! My kids are only 8. I’m 34 years old. But I’ll continue to live my life to the fullest with my kids’ happiness first and foremost.
Jeanette R., 47
Advance, NC
I haven’t felt like there has been any new news, but in reflection, that’s not entirely true. Every day that I wake up and get to go to work to help support my family is good news. Every day that I get to spend being a wife and mother is good news.
Lauren H., 39
Oakley, CA
The truth is, I’m not good at having stage IV cancer. I didn’t plan for this, and there aren’t books called 'How to be the Best Version of You With a Stage IV Diagnosis' to provide me with nine steps for dealing with my diagnosis. Instead, I figure it out every day.
Keeli A., 37
Erie, CO
My family’s priorities have changed. We take more vacations, worry about little things less. I’m trying to make my children’s childhood rich with memories and love. When they look back on me, I want them to remember the fun we had, not the illness.
Lara M., 42
Louisville, KY
I focus on gratitude for the moments my family shared, instead of tearfully wishing I could be back on my paddleboard, listening to the laughter of our kids jumping the crashing waves. I focus on the blessings here.
Carlene B., 49
Newfields, NH
I found Hope Scarves. Sending a scarf and a story of hope is such a heart-centered way to send support and love. So many people put their love and good energy into the scarves, the stories, and even the packaging -- how could you not feel that on the other end?
Dalynn C., 42
Lawrenceburg, KY
Life by the yard is hard; by the inch it’s a cinch.’ This concept was especially helpful to me. Going through chemo, it became my mantra: get through today, then we’ll deal with tomorrow. Get through chemo, then we’ll deal with surgery. Get through surgery, then we’ll deal with radiation. And so on.
Lara M., 42
Louisville, KY
We aren’t letting this derail our family’s life. We’re going to take the information as information, make a plan, and treat it. Sitting home and crying doesn’t help anything.

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