What does metastatic cancer mean?

Metastatic cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other organs, and is found in about 6-10% of all breast cancer patients. This is stage IV cancer, but often patients are diagnosed at earlier stages.

Where can breast cancer metastasize to?

The cancer can move to other parts of the body such as the bones, brain, lungs, liver, chest.

Am I going to die?

Being inundated with all this information and hearing about the prognosis can be scary, and it’s a common fear to be concerned about one’s death. Please remember that every patient has a unique situation, with a different tumor type, metastases site, receptor type, medical history, etc. No one, not even the doctor, can definitely say how long a patient will live. This is a complex questions with many factors to consider.

How can I be cured?

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for metastatic breast cancer, but treatment can effectively focus on controlling the cancer for a long time.

Should I get a second opinion?

Since there are many treatment options and routes, you may consider consulting with another doctor/oncologist to get more information and get a second perspective on your treatment possibilities.

Will it be painful?

Pain management should be a core part of your treatment plan.
Sometimes pain can be managed by reducing the tumor itself, but sometimes other drugs, acupuncture, and physical therapy are needed in conjunction.

What will my relationship with my doctor be like?

You have a right to ask questions and share your concerns with your doctor, who should answer all your questions and address your concerns, or connect you with someone who can. For a list of questions we suggest asking your doctor, please see [LINK HERE to list of ?]

What will my relationship with my social worker be like?

Social workers are resources for you to help you seek assistance with hold care, financial services, transportation, food services, psychologists, and more. They are well connected with many contacts who can help you, so please be sure to use them!

Questions about the disease and treatment

Is my tumor invasive or noninvasive?

Invasive tumors have invaded nearby breast tissue

What is the stage of my cancer?

  • Staging refers to how much your cancer has progressed
  • Cancer can be staged based on the size, invasion of breast tissue and lymph nodes, and spread to other organs of the body
  • Your doctor may use the TNM system of staging (T = tumor size, N = number of lymph nodes invaded, M = metastatic disease or spread to other organs outside of the breast including bone, lungs, liver, and brain)

What the grade of my tumor?

  • The grade refers to how abnormal the cells look; the higher the grade the more abnormal the cells look and the more aggressive the cancer is

What is the receptor status of my cancer?

  • There are certain receptors on cancer cells that respond to different hormones and growth factors (proteins) in your body. This can be used to help determine treatment in terms of hormonal and chemotherapy.
  • Tumor cells that have growth factor receptors for HER2/neu are HER2+ and respond to drugs that attack the receptor such as Trastuzumab/ Herceptin