Overview Patients diagnosed with Stage IV or metastatic breast cancers have disease that has spread from the affected breast to one or more distant sites in the body. Historically, metastatic breast cancer has been considered incurable; the goal of treatment has been to provide relief from symptoms and prolong the duration and quality of life. However, there have been some important advances resulting in the addition of many more treatment options for managing this disease.
Stage IV cancer, also known as stage 4 cancer, is a serious disease that requires immediate expert care. Patients who have been diagnosed with stage IV cancer may consider getting a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis and explore treatment options. Stage IV cancer patients also may be eligible to participate in available clinical trials.
Stage 4 is the most advanced form of breast cancer. It is also referred to as metastatic breast cancer because the malignancy will have spread metastasized from the breast to other parts of the body, such as the bones, lungs, brain, or liver. Stage 4 breast cancer is often diagnosed when the cancer recursalthough it may sometime be discovered at the initial diagnosis.
Most women with stage IV breast cancer are treated with systemic therapy. This may include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or some combination of these. Local treatments such as surgery or radiation might also be used to help prevent or treat symptoms. Stage IV cancers have spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body.
Your specialist will take a number of different factors into account when deciding which treatment is best for you, including:. Secondary breast cancer may respond to several types of treatment. Doctors try to start with treatment that has as few side effects as possible.
According to the National Cancer Institutean estimated 27 percent of people in the United States live at least five years after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Many factors can affect your chances of long-term survival. Different subtypes of breast cancer behave differently — some are more aggressive than others, and some have far fewer treatment options than others.
The stage of the cancer helps you and your doctor:. Breast cancer stage is usually expressed as a number on a scale of 0 through IV — with stage 0 describing non-invasive cancers that remain within their original location and stage IV describing invasive cancers that have spread outside the breast to other parts of the body. Your pathology report will include information that is used to calculate the stage of the breast cancer — that is, whether it is limited to one area in the breast, or it has spread to healthy tissues inside the breast or to other parts of the body.
Metastatic breast cancer also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer is not a specific type of breast cancer. It's the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs in the body most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain.
Stage 2 means the breast cancer is growing, but it is still contained in the breast or growth has only extended to the nearby lymph nodes. This stage is divided into groups: Stage 2A and Stage 2B. The difference is determined by the size of the tumor and whether the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. No actual tumor is associated with the cancerous cells and less than four auxillary lymph nodes have cancer cells present.