What Happens When Breast Cancer Spreads

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KEERTHI GOGINENI: Metastatic breast cancer is when a woman, or potentially a man, has a cancer that started in the breast and then spread to an area outside of the breast. And so when we think about this, we're thinking about cancer that's gone from the breast into the lungs, or the liver, or the bones, or the brain. There's going to be some group of women for whom the breast cancer they had in a sense distributed seeds, and at some point those seeds find roots and they grow in a different part of the body. Thankfully, most people who have breast cancer are not going to develop metastatic disease. But there is going to be some group of women that will develop that, and it really depends on the kind of breast cancer that someone was diagnosed with. So women who have hormone positive breast cancer are women who could have a recurrence a long time after they were first diagnosed. So that could be in the span of the following 10, 15 years. There are women who have something called triple negative breast cancer. That kind of breast cancer tends to show up fast. So these women typically, if they're going to have metastatic disease, it would develop within the first two to three years of a diagnosis. And then women who have something called HER2-positive breast cancer are potentially going to have metastatic disease develop somewhere between those two windows. And so in terms of thinking about treatment plans, one of the goals was to try to make sure that we're addressing the symptoms that the cancer might be causing, but also trying to really think hard about the quality of life and the length of life. You're trying to put together a treatment plan that's going to address those different aspects.