Life expectancy for metastatic breast cancer

Written by kristeen cherney
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Life expectancy statistics for metastatic breast cancer are not high, as this is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. The expansion of cancer and resulting symptoms vary from person to person. However, available treatments may help a patient feel more comfortable and live longer.

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The Facts

Metastatic breast cancer is also called advanced or stage IV breast cancer. In such cases, the cancer has spread from the breast to other parts of the body. At this stage, a patient's life is likely to be shortened as a result of the cancer.

Expansion

Metastatic breast cancer often rapidly spreads to bone and organs, such as the liver and lungs. Relapses from prior treatment may result in metastatic breast cancer. Imaginis states that 25 per cent of women in the advanced stage of breast cancer have the cells spread to the bone, two-thirds experience the expansion into the liver, and of those who die, about 70 per cent have had the cancer take over the lungs. Other body parts that metastatic breast cancer can expand to include the brain, bone marrow, eyes, ovaries and spinal cord.

Symptoms

Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer vary, depending on the expansion of cancer to other parts of the body. They may include pain in the bones, an absence of appetite, severe headaches, difficulty breathing and rapid weight loss. However, such symptoms are not exclusive to metastatic breast cancer. If they are related to this form of cancer, it is usually indicative that the breast cancer is well advanced in the body.

Treatment

Since this stage of breast cancer is so advanced, that treatment focuses on extending and improving a woman's quality of life rather than fighting the cancer. A common form of treatment is with anti-cancer medications or chemotherapy throughout the whole body. According to imaginis.com, research has shown that some women who undergo chemotherapy may experience a prolonged life, while others are not affected whatsoever. Radiation therapy is used on specific spots of the body, such as an organ, in an attempt to slow down cancer cell progression and to relieve the patient's pain. However, this form of treatment is not used often, as metastatic breast cancer spreads quickly throughout the body and is not exclusive to one area.

Prognosis

According to imaginis.com, approximately 16 per cent of women survive metastatic breast cancer and 20 per cent survive for at least five years after diagnosis. Although these statistics may see daunting, they are a contradiction to popular belief that metastatic breast cancer is an instant killer. However, early detection is still the key to help avoid this stage of breast cancer.

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