Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer

Evaluate your treatment goals when considering your metastatic breast cancer treatment options.

Whether you're newly diagnosed with metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer or a previously treated breast cancer has come back or progressed to this advanced stage, treatment of your metastatic breast cancer will likely be very different than early-stage breast cancer treatment.

The goals and aggressiveness of your treatment options will depend on your individual situation and preferences. Understanding what you want out of your treatment can help guide your treatment decisions.

Goals of metastatic breast cancer treatment

Once a cancer has spread to other parts of the body in metastatic cancer, it's extremely difficult to completely get rid of all the cancer cells. That means metastatic breast cancer is usually not curable.

But it is treatable. In recent years, there have been significant advances that have prolonged the lives of people with metastatic breast cancer, thanks to more effective therapies.

The goals of metastatic breast cancer treatment are generally to:

  • Shrink and slow the growth of the cancer as much as possible
  • Ease symptoms and maintain quality of life as long as possible
  • Prolong how long you will live as much as possible

Your treatment plan for metastatic breast cancer will depend on several factors, including:

  • Whether the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones (hormone receptor status)
  • Whether the cancer cells are sensitive to human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2 status)
  • Where the cancer has spread
  • What cancer treatments you have had before
  • Your symptoms
  • Your overall health
  • Your menopausal status
  • Your individual goals and preferences

Treatment options

Depending on your treatment goals and cancer status, your doctor will discuss the benefits, risks and side effects of different treatment options for metastatic breast cancer and create a personalized treatment approach.

Treatment options may include one or more of the following:

  • Hormonal therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapies
  • Radiation therapy, including stereotactic radiosurgery
  • Surgery (rarely used in metastatic disease)
  • Experimental therapies (clinical trials)

With each treatment and at each stage of your treatment, your doctor will incorporate supportive care, including pain and other symptom management, into your care plan.

Your doctor may also discuss the possibility of participating in a clinical trial of emerging breast cancer treatments.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments are often used in metastatic breast cancer treatment alongside traditional treatments to address some of the side effects of traditional treatments as well as improve your overall quality of life.

Before starting any treatment plan, you may want to get a second opinion from another cancer specialist. Most doctors welcome the input of a second opinion, and your insurance company will often pay for it.

The second doctor may agree with your treatment plan or suggest other options. In either case, you'll have more information than when you started, which can help you feel more confident about your treatment choice.

Feb. 05, 2020 See more In-depth

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  2. Alternative and complementary medicine for metastatic breast cancer
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  10. Breast Cancer Education Tool
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  12. Breast cancer radiation: Can it cause dry skin?
  13. Infographic: Breast Cancer Risk
  14. Breast cancer staging
  15. Breast cancer supportive therapy and survivorship
  16. Breast cancer surgery
  17. Breast cancer types
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  23. Infographic: Breast Reconstruction Options
  24. Breast self-exam for breast awareness
  25. Chemo Targets
  26. Chemotherapy
  27. Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment
  28. Chemotherapy and sex: Is sexual activity OK during treatment?
  29. Chemotherapy for breast cancer
  30. Chemotherapy nausea and vomiting: Prevention is best defense
  31. Chest X-rays
  32. Complete blood count (CBC)
  33. Conflicting mammogram results: What can I do?
  34. Coping with pain after breast surgery
  35. CT scan
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  37. Dense breast tissue
  38. Does soy really affect breast cancer risk?
  39. Dragon Boats and Breast Cancer
  40. Gene expression profiling for breast cancer: What is it?
  41. Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
  42. Genetic testing for breast cancer: Psychological and social impact
  43. Get ready for possible side effects of chemotherapy
  44. Get the support you need when you have metastatic breast cancer
  45. Ginger for nausea: Does it work?
  46. Hormone therapy for breast cancer
  47. Metastatic breast cancer
  48. Lower your risk of breast cancer
  49. Lumpectomy
  50. Magic mouthwash
  51. Mammogram
  52. Mammogram: Can it find cancer in dense breasts?
  53. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  54. Mastectomy
  55. Molecular breast imaging
  56. Infographic: Molecular Breast Imaging
  57. MRI
  58. MRI-guided breast biopsy
  59. Nipple discharge
  60. Palliative care
  61. Palliative care: Who is it for?
  62. PALS (Pets Are Loving Support)
  63. Paulas story A team approach to battling breast cancer
  64. Pink Sisters
  65. Positron emission mammography (PEM)
  66. Positron emission tomography scan
  67. Precision medicine for breast cancer
  68. Preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy
  69. Prophylactic oophorectomy: Preventing cancer by surgically removing your ovaries
  70. Radiation therapy
  71. Radiation therapy for breast cancer
  72. Relationships and metastatic breast cancer
  73. Infographic: Scalp Cooling Therapy for Cancer
  74. Seeing Inside the Heart with MRI
  75. Sentinel node biopsy
  76. Stereotactic breast biopsy
  77. Support groups
  78. Tai chi
  79. The Long Race Beating Cancer
  80. Thyroid guard: Do I need one during a mammogram?
  81. Tomosynthesis-guided breast biopsy
  82. Ultrasound
  83. Sentinel node biopsy for melanoma
  84. Mammogram for breast cancer — What to expect
  85. MRI
  86. Tai chi
  87. Weight Loss After Breast Cancer
  88. What is metastatic breast cancer?
  89. Working with your doctor when you have metastatic breast cancer: Interview with a Mayo Clinic expert.
  90. X-ray
  91. Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise!