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Local Treatments for Distant Areas of Metastasis

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Stage IV breast cancer may have been your first diagnosis, or it may have been diagnosed as a recurrence after treatment for an earlier-stage breast cancer.

The most common site of metastasis is the bones, but breast cancer also can move into the lungs, brain, and/or liver. These are known as “distant” areas of metastasis. Finding out that breast cancer has moved into other areas of the body can be upsetting, to say the least. But there are many treatment options for you and your doctor to consider. Clinical trials are also a good option for people with stage IV breast cancer.

The most common treatments for stage IV breast cancer are systemic medications, which treat cancer throughout the entire body. Systemic medications include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapies. These medications can treat areas of cancer that show up on imaging studies, along with any microscopic cells that don’t.

Local treatments — therapies directed specifically to the new locations of the breast cancer — aren’t usually the first choice for metastases. Still, local treatments are recommended under certain circumstances:

  • When metastatic breast cancer is causing pain or other symptoms that can affect quality of life. The most common example of local treatment is medication to control bone metastasis. Others include surgery to remove the cancer or focused radiation to destroy it.
  • When there are just one or two areas of metastasis and doctors believe they can completely remove the cancer, possibly preventing future problems.

This section can help you figure out if any site-specific treatments may be right for you. Every situation is unique, so be sure to work with your medical team to make the best plan for you.

If you’re not ready to read this information yet, that’s okay. You can always have a trusted adviser or friend review it for you and let you know about anything that seems important for your situation.

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