Metastatic breast cancer, also referred to as stage IV breast cancer, is the most advanced type of the disease. It occurs when tumors spread to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, it is incurable, and means that a woman who is diagnosed with it must live with cancer for the rest of her life.
Being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer can be overwhelming, and yet while there is no cure, many people with metastatic breast cancer can still lead full, rewarding lives and do amazing things. Of course, with the diagnosis comes many changes. Here are some of the ways metastatic breast cancer is different from the other stages of the disease.
8. You’re No Longer Looking for a Cure
As previously mentioned, the unfortunate reality of a stage IV breast cancer diagnosis is that you’ll be living with cancer for the rest of your life, which means your treatment will continue just as long. This will affect every treatment you decide to undergo and what you’re willing to experience. You’re no longer looking for a cure, but you are looking for more time.
7. Other People Will Still Think You’re Curable
The average person doesn’t understand that metastatic breast cancer is incurable — they may be under the assumption that your treatment will end during your lifetime. While you know better, do your best to deal with this. Be clear with your friends and family about your situation.
6. You Have More to Learn About This Type of Cancer
Many people, including those who have metastatic breast cancer, don’t fully understand the disease. Dedicate yourself to learning everything you can. This will not only keep you aware of your options, it will also empower you as you work to manage your care.
5. The Goal of Treatment Becomes to Prolong Life
With each treatment you undergo, you know the objective is now to stay as healthy as you can for as long as possible. Some women with metastatic breast cancer can live several years after a diagnosis with proper treatment and care.
4. Quality of Life Becomes More Important
After your stage IV diagnosis, time becomes much more valuable. A good quality of life is what matters, and you have to decide what treatments are worth it and which ones aren’t. Some treatments may be effective, but may also come with side effects you simply don’t want to deal with. Be honest with your medical team about how you feel to ensure you’re spending your time the way you want to.
3. Palliative Care Becomes Part of Your Treatment Plan
Palliative care deals with treating pain and symptoms related to your disease. It is also referred to as “comfort care” or “supportive care,” as the goal is not to cure, but to manage your symptoms and alleviate any emotional issues. It might include endocrine therapy to relieve pain, or medication to deal with nausea or insomnia. The primary objective is to help improve your quality of life.
2. You Get a Different Group of Breast Cancer “Sisters”
One of the silver linings of your diagnosis is that now, you’re part of an exclusive sisterhood, made up of women who are battling the same cancer as you. Like you, their disease is not curable and their time has become more valuable. Make the most of those sisters you have around you. Maybe you can draw strength from each other.
1. You Learn to Live in the Present
You may have received a tough diagnosis, but now you realize that this moment is yours. Make the most of it and appreciate the small things while they’re happening. Spend time with family, check items off your bucket list, and take each day as it comes.
Learning to live with cancer may be difficult, but you still have life to live. This is YOUR time, and it’s up to you how you’d like to make the most of it.
Breast cancer can turn your world upside down, but as draining as it is, good things can come out of your experience, too. Click the link below to learn 8 positive things about breast cancer to remember when your spirits are low.
The Breast Cancer Site is a place where supporters and survivors come together to help fight breast cancer. In addition to sharing personal stories of hope, shopping for the cause, and signing petitions, visitors can take just a moment each day to click on a pink button to provide free mammograms for women in need. Visit The Breast Cancer Site and click today - it's free!