Living with cancer blog

Living one day at a time with metastatic cancer

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. November 19, 2011

We've talked about advanced cancer before, but metastatic cancer is a subject I'd like to discuss this week. Metastatic cancer is when cancer spreads to another part of the body. Metastatic cancer is the same cancer type as your original.

This means if your original cancer was breast cancer, but now has spread to the lungs or brain, it's still breast cancer and will be treated with strategies for breast cancer. Living with metastatic cancer can have unique challenges. Maybe you were originally diagnosed and treated months or years ago and had a period of time when you were considered cancer-free.

If cancer has returned, it might bring up feelings and emotions that are very difficult to get through. You might feel a sense of loss, failure, or shame. Research done with cancer survivors has found more than 40 percent of people diagnosed with metastatic disease have these feelings. It may also be hard to talk with others about this as you work through the physical and emotional aspects of having treatment again.

Here are a few things to help you focus on what is right for you ...

  • Talk with your oncologist and treatment team to discuss the treatment options that are best for you. You may have more than one option to consider.
  • Ask about new treatments that may be offered through clinical trials. There are times when a clinical trial can provide the latest treatment option being studied.
  • Discuss treatment side effects and quality of life. Make sure that you're comfortable with the new treatment plan and have all of the information needed to proceed. Maintaining a good quality of life is very important.
  • Get your family and friends involved early on. Don't be afraid to let them know what you're going through. Those who are close to you will want to know and want to help you.
  • Look for support groups (in person and online) that may help you cope with the emotions and reality of dealing with metastatic cancer. It's good to talk with others who are going through similar experiences.

I'm including a few suggestions for sites that have online support groups that might be helpful (Breast Cancer —, The Wellness Community, and The MetaCancer Foundation). Reach out to each other through this blog and share your support, experiences and resources.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

Nov. 19, 2011