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Topic of the Month: Metastatic Breast Cancer

Topic of the Month: Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metasatic Breast Cancer Alliance

15 leading charities and advocacy groups have joined forces to change the way metastatic breast cancer is understood and to increase focus on research.

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What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?

Metastatic breast cancer, classified as Stage IV disease and also known as “advanced,” is cancer that has spread beyond the breast and surrounding lymph nodes into other areas of the body. Metastatic disease is usually diagnosed when breast cancer has recurred (returned), months or even years after treatment for earlier-stage disease, but it can also be diagnosed as advanced at the original diagnosis as well.

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13 Facts Everyone Should Know About Metastatic Breast Cancer

  1. No one dies from breast cancer that remains in the breast. Metastasis occurs when cancerous cells travel to a vital organ and that is what threatens life.

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Where Breast Cancer Might Come Back and How to Detect It

When breast cancer comes back, it may return in the same place. This is called a "recurrence," because it is not a new cancer. But a recurrence can also appear in a place not directly related to the first breast cancer. This is called a "metastasis", and if cancer is detected in several areas, these are called "metastases". When breast cancer comes back, it tends to show up in specific areas of the body.

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Living with Metastatic Disease

Many women can live for years with metastatic cancer that's under control. For these women, living with a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer is like living with a chronic disease. It can go into remission, be active sometimes and not others, or move quickly. It frequently involves trying one treatment after another, ideally with breaks in between treatments when you feel good.

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Differences in Breast Cancer

You may have heard that no two breast cancers are alike. This is true. Advances in technology have enabled researchers to gain a better understanding of breast cancer, and they have found that many features of breast cancers differ. The disease is now categorized into several different subtypes on the basis of the molecular makeup of the tumor. These differences have important implications for treatment, with some treatments being effective for only certain subtypes.

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FAQs about Metastatic Breast Cancer

If you or a loved one is living with metastatic breast cancer, you probably have a lot of questions about treatments, clinical trials, side effects, monitoring your treatment and other medical and quality-of-life issues.

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Additional Resources

Patient Resource Guide

Living Beyond Breast Cancer

Northwestern’s Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Program

Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Survivorship Program at the Lurie Cancer Center

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

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