Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer globally, overtaking lung cancer in some countries.
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) cannot be cured but can be managed with treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate after diagnosis for people with stage 4 breast cancer is 27%. This means 27 out of 100 women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer will survive for at least five years. However, these survival rates are only predictions. You will need to discuss this with your doctor about the various treatments. The response to the treatment for metastatic cancer depends on many things, such as age, health, other co-existing health issues, and access to medical care.
Breast cancer cells can migrate and metastasize anywhere in the body, but the most common sites are the lungs, liver, bones, and brain. Bone metastasis has better chances of survival than lung and liver metastases.
Not every metastatic breast cancer is terminal. Terminal cancer is incurable and fails to respond to all the treatments; death occurs in a few weeks to months. Also, it has been seen that some women with metastatic breast cancer can survive for as long as 10 years with treatments. If the woman with metastatic breast cancer decides to give up the treatment, which is most often due to the side effects, cancer may worsen and can turn terminal.
How to cope with metastatic breast cancer
Metastatic breast cancer does not always develop because you have taken the wrong treatments or have been irregular with your treatment. There are reports of women developing cancer after being disease-free for months and years. Even after medications and surgeries, there are chances that some cancer cells are still present. These cells migrate to organs, leading to the metastatic condition.
The time when your doctor reveals to you that you have reached an advanced stage of cancer can be emotionally devastating. However, you need to accept the conditions and prepare yourself to explain the same to your loved ones. It is OK to take some time and find the right time to share the news with them.
The treatment for metastatic breast cancer is an ongoing treatment and evolving through clinical trials. There is no hope for a cure. However, medications can help you deal with the symptoms and live a longer life than without the treatment.
You may decide to stop the medications for metastatic breast cancer because of the severe side effects that come with the treatment. You may opt for hospice or palliative care, which is available in many hospitals. Palliative care is a special kind of treatment reserved for people with a terminal illness. It aims to alleviate the symptoms, as well as provide you comfort and better quality of life.
Alternative practices, such as yoga and meditation, also help people affected with cancer or other serious illnesses. These make you feel relaxed and enable you to take control of your situation. You can register for programs that teach you how to do them effectively.
It is normal to feel isolated when you know of your diagnosis. To get rid of the feeling, you can consider joining a cancer support group. Options are plenty. Look for one on the websites of organizations, such as the American Cancer Society. You can also search for the same in your local area. Sharing your feelings and journey with people who suffer from the same condition can help you feel at peace.