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Understanding metastatic breast cancer

July 28, 2020

Written by

Alon Rivel

Two elderly women sitting on a couch, looking at a mobile phone

Overview of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body. Stage IV breast cancer (also referred to as metastatic breast cancer) occurs when cancer that began in the breast has spread to other parts of the body. Breast cancer can metastasize in any part of the body, but it most commonly spreads to the bones, lungs, liver, or the brain. Breast cancer can return to another part of the body months or even several years after the original diagnosis and/or treatment. Approximately 30% of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will develop to metastatic breast cancer.

There is no current cure for metastatic breast cancer. There are clinical trials and treatment options that include medications that can help slow the spread and growth of breast cancer tumors. Even though this means that treatment will now be a part of your daily life, you do have options when it comes to managing your condition.

Types of Metastatic Breast Cancer

There are multiple types of metastatic breast cancer that is often determined by certain proteins that are found in or on the cancer cells. These proteins include hormone receptors (HRs) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). You typically find a plus or minus sign next to these, the plus sign indicates that your cancer has the protein or receptor, while a minus sign indicates that it has either a small or no amount of the protein. HR+ breast cancer can also be referred to as ER+ or PR+. This essentially means that the breast cancer is fueled by the hormone estrogen or progesterone.

The most common types of metastatic breast cancer are HR+, HER2-. HR+ and HER2- affect around 73% of all people with metastatic breast cancer. Survival rates vary by the subtype of the breast cancer.

Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer

A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. At time it can be a lot to manage both physically and emotionally. There are many ways to live a fulfilled life with metastatic breast cancer, including working after your diagnosis, facing fears, getting emotional support, and more. Learn more about metastatic treatment options and clinical trial studies currently being done now.