Metastatic breast cancer is considered advanced cancer that has spread beyond the breast area to other parts of the body. Metastatic breast cancer is classified as stage IV. The bones, the lungs, and the brain are all places to where breast cancer can spread. Metastatic breast cancer is treatable, but generally not curable.
A study looked at how long women survived after being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer during two 10-year periods: 1985 to 1994 and 1995 to 2004. Between those two periods, a number of new medicines were developed to treat metastatic breast cancer so the researchers expected survival would improve. But the researchers found only a small increase in how long women lived after metastatic breast cancer diagnosis when they compared the later 10 years to the earlier 10 years. Between the same two 10-year periods survival time for metastatic colorectal cancer improved significantly.
Breast cancer hormone-receptor status affects treatment options, expected response to treatment, and overall prognosis. Hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer tends to be more aggressive and harder to treat than hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. The researchers looked at survival information for hormone-receptor-positive and hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer during the two time periods.
For a diagnosis of metastatic hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer:
- from 1985 to 1994, survival averaged between 2.5 and 3.7 years
- from 1995 to 2004, survival averaged between 3.6 and 3.8 years
For a diagnosis of metastatic hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer:
- from 1985 to 1994, survival averaged between 1.5 and 1.9 years
- from 1995 to 2004, survival averaged between 1.9 and 2.1 years
If you or some one you love is dealing with metastatic breast cancer, these findings may be discouraging. Still, consider the following:
- These survival numbers are averages. Some women will live much longer. Your treatment plan, your care, and your prognosis are as unique as you are.
- Research is the best hope to improve the outlook for anyone diagnosed with breast cancer. A better understanding of breast cancer genetics is likely the key to more effective treatments for both early-stage and metastatic breast cancer.
- Participating in a clinical trial is one way to possibly benefit from new treatments. Ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials that might makes sense for your unique situation.
Stay tuned to Breastcancer.org for the very latest on research to develop new treatments for metastatic breast cancer.