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

See also

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  2. Alternative and complementary medicine for metastatic breast cancer
  3. Biopsy procedures
  4. Blood Basics
  5. Bone scan
  6. Brachytherapy
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  9. Breast cancer chemoprevention
  10. Breast Cancer Education Tool
  11. Common questions about breast cancer treatment
  12. Breast cancer prevention
  13. Breast cancer radiation: Can it cause dry skin?
  14. Infographic: Breast Cancer Risk
  15. Breast cancer staging
  16. Breast cancer supportive therapy and survivorship
  17. Breast cancer surgery
  18. Breast cancer types
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  20. Breast implants and cancer
  21. Evaluating breast lumps
  22. Breast lumps
  23. Breast MRI
  24. Infographic: Breast Reconstruction Options
  25. Breast self-exam for breast awareness
  26. Chemo Targets
  27. Chemotherapy
  28. Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment
  29. Chemotherapy and sex: Is sexual activity OK during treatment?
  30. Chemotherapy for breast cancer
  31. Chemotherapy nausea and vomiting: Prevention is best defense
  32. Chest X-rays
  33. Complete blood count (CBC)
  34. Conflicting mammogram results: What can I do?
  35. Coping with pain after breast surgery
  36. COVID-19 vaccine: Should I reschedule my mammogram?
  37. CT scan
  38. CT scans: Are they safe?
  39. Dense breast tissue
  40. Does soy really affect breast cancer risk?
  41. Dragon Boats and Breast Cancer
  42. Gene expression profiling for breast cancer: What is it?
  43. Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
  44. Genetic testing for breast cancer: Psychological and social impact
  45. Get ready for possible side effects of chemotherapy
  46. Get the support you need when you have metastatic breast cancer
  47. Ginger for nausea: Does it work?
  48. Hormone therapy for breast cancer
  49. Metastatic breast cancer
  50. Lower your risk of breast cancer
  51. Lumpectomy
  52. Magic mouthwash
  53. Mammogram
  54. Mammogram: Can it find cancer in dense breasts?
  55. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  56. Mastectomy
  57. Metastatic breast cancer: Should you get a second opinion?
  58. Modified radical mastectomy
  59. Molecular breast imaging
  60. Infographic: Molecular Breast Imaging
  61. MRI
  62. MRI-guided breast biopsy
  63. What is breast cancer? An expert explains
  64. Nipple discharge
  65. Nipple-sparing mastectomy
  66. Oncoplastic breast surgery
  67. Palliative care for metastatic breast cancer
  68. Palliative care: Who is it for?
  69. PALS (Pets Are Loving Support)
  70. Paulas story A team approach to battling breast cancer
  71. Pink Sisters
  72. Positron emission mammography (PEM)
  73. Positron emission tomography scan
  74. Precision medicine for breast cancer
  75. Preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy
  76. Prophylactic oophorectomy: Preventing cancer by surgically removing your ovaries
  77. Radiation therapy
  78. Radiation therapy for breast cancer
  79. Relationships and metastatic breast cancer
  80. Infographic: Scalp Cooling Therapy for Cancer
  81. Seeing inside the heart with MRI
  82. Sentinel node biopsy
  83. Skin-sparing mastectomy
  84. Stereotactic breast biopsy
  85. Support groups
  86. Tai chi
  87. The Long Race Beating Cancer
  88. Thyroid guard: Do I need one during a mammogram?
  89. Tomosynthesis-guided breast biopsy
  90. Ultrasound
  91. Sentinel node biopsy for melanoma
  92. Mammogram for breast cancer — What to expect
  93. MRI
  94. Tai chi
  95. Weight Loss After Breast Cancer
  96. What is metastatic breast cancer?
  97. Working with your doctor when you have metastatic breast cancer: Interview with a Mayo Clinic expert.
  98. X-ray
  99. Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise!