Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer) is not a specific type of breast cancer, but rather the most advanced stage of breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain).
Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it’s considered and treated as breast cancer.
For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bones is still breast cancer (not bone cancer) and is treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the bones.
It’s estimated that at least 154,000 people in the U.S. have metastatic breast cancer . Some women have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed (called de novo metastatic breast cancer). However, this isn’t common in the U.S. (6 percent of diagnoses) .
Most often, metastatic breast cancer arises months or years after a person has completed treatment for early or locally advanced breast cancer. This is sometimes called a distant recurrence.
Learn more about breast cancer recurrence.
Read our perspective on living with metastatic breast cancer (November 2016).*
Although metastatic breast cancer currently cannot be cured, it can still be treated.
Treatment of metastatic breast cancer focuses on length and quality of life.
Treatment is guided by many factors, including:
- The biology of the tumor (characteristics of the cancer cells)
- Where the cancer has spread
- Past breast cancer treatments
Learn more about treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Learn about symptom management and supportive care.
Survival for metastatic breast cancer varies greatly from person to person.
Of the women who have metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. today, it’s estimated that 34 percent have had metastatic cancer for at least 5 years . So, they’ve lived at least 5 years since being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
Modern treatments continue to improve survival for most women diagnosed today. In fact, some women may live 10 years or more after their diagnosis .
SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES
*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.