Metastatic breast cancer is known as Stage 4 breast cancer where the disease has spread to other parts of the body.
There are two important considerations that affect people with metastatic breast cancer: 1.) Dealing with your own emotions, through counseling, a support group, religion—whatever works best for you and 2.) Getting as much information as your doctor has about the likely probable progress of your illness and what it involves.
Today, more women and men with metastatic breast cancer are living longer, meaningful and productive lives. Research continues, and at times metastatic breast cancer can be controlled for extended periods, with ongoing treatment.
No one knows how long someone with metastatic breast cancer will live. That’s why the second primary goal in treating metastatic breast cancer is keeping women feeling as good as they can for as long as they can.
Palliative care is symptom management and is very helpful. It is provided by a palliative care team, which can include a doctor, nurse, social worker, chaplain, counselor, pharmacist, dietitian, rehabilitation specialist, physical therapist, music and art therapists, and home health aides. Their focus is reducing or eliminating your pain and other symptoms, addressing your emotional and spiritual concerns and, in general, improving your quality of life.
During and after your treatment for metastatic disease you’ll be followed with the staging tests—bone scan, chest X-ray, and blood tests—as well as a few other tests such as CT scans, PET scans, or MRI. These can help determine if you’re indeed responding to treatment, although your symptoms are the best test of effectiveness. Also, let your doctors know if or when you are experiencing pain.
Take Care of Yourself Emotionally
Women with metastatic disease often feel very isolated. Other survivors, finding their stories too scary, may not want to listen to them, and family and friends may not be able to deal with the seriousness of the situation. Luckily there are many women living with breast cancer recurrences and metastatic disease.
Ask your doctor, patient navigator or social worker for referrals to organizations or patients offering education and support for people living with advanced breast cancer.
Your life has a passion and a purpose. Fill it up with all of the good stuff you can every day. We encourage you to continue to enjoy your favorite activities with family and friends, make new friends, seek new affirming experiences; take it step by step, day by day, live your life to the fullest and do not give up hope.