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.
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
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
- 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
- Breast cancer. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/default.aspx. Accessed Jan. 6, 2020.
- Bland KI, et al., eds. Solitary metastases. In: The Breast: Comprehensive Management of Benign and Malignant Diseases. 5th ed. Elsevier; 2018. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 3, 2020.
- Coping with metastatic cancer. Cancer.Net. https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/managing-emotions/coping-with-metastatic-cancer. Accessed Jan. 6, 2020.