Breast Cancer, Metastatic or Recurrent
If you have recently been diagnosed with metastatic or recurrent breast cancer, you may have many emotions. There is no "normal" or "right" way to react. You may feel angry or frustrated and may second-guess your previous treatments. Or you may feel hopeless.
But there are treatments that help. Some recurrent breast cancers can be successfully treated. Other recurrent breast cancers and metastatic breast cancer usually can't be cured. With these cancers, treatment is focused on keeping the cancer from getting worse. This includes helping women live as long as possible and with a good quality of life.
Types of treatment
When making decisions about treatment, you and your doctor will consider many things, such as your age and health, the type of breast cancer you have, Reference where it is, and your preferences.
For recurrent breast cancer in the breast or chest wall, treatments may include:Reference 2
- Reference Surgery (mastectomy) Opens New Window, Reference radiation therapy Opens New Window, or both.
- Reference Chemotherapy Opens New Window or Reference hormone therapy Opens New Window.
- Being in a Reference clinical trial Opens New Window, such as one where you have Reference trastuzumab (Herceptin) and chemotherapy.
For recurrent breast cancer in other parts of the body and metastatic breast cancer, treatments may include:Reference 2
- Hormone therapy and chemotherapy (with or without trastuzumab).
- Reference Tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy with lapatinib and Reference capecitabine.
- Radiation therapy, surgery, or both for symptoms that may be causing pain or other problems.
- Reference Bisphosphonates to reduce bone pain, fractures, and spinal cord compression caused by cancer in the bones.
- Being in a clinical trial, such as one testing new chemotherapy medicines and hormone therapy.
Side effects of treatment
Cancer and its treatments can be painful, but Reference cancer pain can almost always be controlled. If you are having ongoing problems with managing pain, ask to see a Reference pain specialist Opens New Window.
There are also many Reference things you can do at home to help manage side effects of treatment. But talk to your doctor about any bothersome symptoms. Working together with your doctor can help you have the best possible quality of life.
Additional information about breast cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast.
Reference Clinical trials test new medicines, combinations of medicines, and other treatments for breast cancer. If you have been diagnosed with metastatic or recurrent breast cancer, talk with your doctor about taking part in a clinical trial.
Cancer treatment has two main goals: curing cancer and making your quality of life as good as possible. Reference Palliative care Opens New Window can improve your quality of life by helping you manage your symptoms. It can also help you with other concerns that you may have when you are living with a serious illness.
For some people who have advanced cancer, a time comes when treatment to cure cancer no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But this isn't the end of treatment. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for Reference hospice care Opens New Window.
It can be hard to decide when to stop treatment aimed at prolonging your life and to shift the focus to end-of-life care. For more information, see the topics:
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology