What does a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer mean?
Metastatic or advanced breast cancer means that the cancer has begun to spread to other parts of your body. About 30% to 40% of patients diagnosed with earlier stages of breast cancer will eventually develop MBC. Others may have MBC at their first diagnosis, which is called a de novo diagnosis.
Finding the right treatment
After diagnosis, your doctor may talk to you about your prognosis and your best course of treatment. The right treatment can depend on a number of factors. Some of these include
- Your pathology report. Learn more here
- Where the cancer has spread
- What (if any) treatments you’ve had before for breast cancer, such as treatment you had in addition to surgery, which is called adjuvant therapy
- The potential benefits and risks of your specific treatments
- Your symptoms
Talk to your health care team and your loved ones about your goals for treatment. This may also help you choose the course of therapy that’s right for you.
Checking in with your health care team
After starting a treatment, you will likely see your health care team for a follow-up visit every few months. Here, you will usually get routine blood tests and scans. Some of these include
- Computerized tomography, or CT, scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI
- Blood cell and platelet counts
- Blood tests for tumor markers
- Blood chemistries for your liver and kidneys
- Calcium level counts
These tests can help show if your treatment is working, or if another option might be better for you.
Deciding on a new treatment
Although your first set of treatments may stop working for you, there are other options you can try. These can be hormonal therapies, targeted therapies, or chemotherapy. In fact, over the past decade, it has become more common to get several different treatments for MBC. Keep talking to your health care team about your goals of therapy to help you decide on each new treatment.