If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, it’s important to understand how the disease progresses and what your prognosis is. A five-year survival rate can give you an idea of what to expect, but it’s also important to remember that every patient is different and the treatment plan you receive will have a significant impact on how well you do.
How long you live after a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer depends on the size and location of the tumor, as well as your overall health and what other treatments you’re receiving. Your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan that will work for your unique situation.
Stage 4 breast cancer is when the cancer has spread from its original location within the breast to distant parts of the body, usually the lungs or liver. In this stage, it is not considered curable and patients have a very poor prognosis.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are approximately 29,000 people living with metastatic stage 4 breast cancer in the United States. The ACS tracks 5-year relative survival rates for this stage of the disease in their Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program database. The relative survival rate shows how many people with the condition are alive after 5 years compared to those who don’t have the disease.
When you have a stage 4 diagnosis, it can be difficult to hear what other people’s experiences are when they talk about things like pregnancy or hair loss. However, these concerns can be completely different for those with a terminal illness. Those with advanced stage cancer may be concerned about how long they’ll live, but it’s essential to remember that these numbers can change as new drugs come out and are tested in clinical trials.
In general, the older you are when you’re diagnosed with this stage of the disease, the lower the survival rate. This is because the cancer tends to grow faster and spread to other parts of the body more easily as you age. This is especially true for those with HER2-positive or triple-negative breast cancer.
While these statistics can be discouraging, they are helpful to know in advance. It’s also important to remember that these rates can change over time as treatments improve, so it’s important to speak with your doctor about what to expect with your specific case.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, there are many ways to get support. Larger cancer centers often offer remote second opinions, where an oncologist reviews your medical records and talks to you over the phone about your options. Palliative care teams are another option, and they can help you deal with the emotional aspects of a terminal diagnosis. They can also connect you with local support resources.