Stage IV describes invasive breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs of the body, such as the lungs, distant lymph nodes, skin, bones, liver, or brain.
You may hear the words “advanced” and “metastatic” used to describe stage IV breast cancer. Cancer may be stage IV at first diagnosis, called “de novo” by doctors, or it can be a recurrence of a previous breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Treatment to the breast
- surgery, radiation, or both may be used, depending on many individual factors
Treatment to the lymph nodes
- enlarged lymph nodes may be treated if they are causing discomfort or other symptoms
- chemotherapy is almost always recommended
- if the cancer is hormone-receptor-positive, hormonal therapy is almost always recommended
- targeted therapy will be used to treat cancers that have certain characteristics, for example, cancers that are HER2-positive or cancers that are HER2-negative but have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation; there are a number of targeted therapies that are approved to treat metastatic breast cancer, and new therapies are constantly being studied
Treatment to other parts of the body
- radiation is most commonly used to relieve specific signs or uncomfortable symptoms; surgery may be used to control specific symptoms