About metastatic breast cancer

UNDERSTANDING YOUR METASTATIC BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS

Stage IV advanced breast cancer, often referred to as metastatic breast cancer, occurs when cancer cells spread from their origin to other organs, tissues, and the lumbar system. In Hong Kong, 8.2% of breast cancer patients have metastatic disease.1. While a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis may be scary, you are not alone in the path of treatment. Here, you will find information and resources that can help you better understand the diagnosis and treatment of metastatic breast cancer before making a treatment decision.

LEARN THE FACTS
ABOUT METASTATIC
BREAST CANCER

The information here will help to answer some of the questions you may have about what exactly metastatic breast cancer is, the prognosis and your treatment options, and help you to navigate your breast cancer journey.

You may have been previously diagnosed with early breast cancer and already received treatment for it, or you may have been diagnosed for the first time with metastatic breast cancer and never been diagnosed with breast cancer before.

Whichever applies to you, the following facts about metastatic breast cancer are the same:

  • Metastatic breast cancer means that a cancer that was originally in your breast has spread to other parts of your body1,2. This type of breast cancer is also oftentimes referred to stage 4 breast cancer. 
  • There is no clear guideline to prevent metastatic breast cancer. Unlike cancers detected at an early stage, metastatic breast cancer is a chronic and incurable disease.
  • The prognosis of metastatic breast cancer treatment is to prevent the cancer from growing and spreading any further and to help you live with your disease with the best possible quality of life2.
  • Everyone’s experience with coping with breast cancer is different – you will not necessarily have the same metastatic breast cancer symptoms, side effects and treatments as someone else2.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for breast cancer to metastasize?

It’s difficult to estimate how fast a person’s breast cancer can grow due to different types of breast cancer having different growth rates3. Breast cancer has a doubling time of around 50 to 200 days, only by the 30th division of the cancer can you or your doctor can feel a lump by hand5. Meaning that if you have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, it probably first occurred at least two years ago6.

What are the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer?

The symptoms of an advanced cancer like metastatic breast cancer present themselves differently depending on the person’s lifestyle and where the cancer has spread. Metastatic breast cancer symptoms can vary from headaches to unexpected weight loss, chest pain and even numbness across your whole body7. Make sure to notify your primary healthcare provider as soon as you notice anything unusual, especially if you have a  family history of cancer. 

Is it possible for me to adapt to a new life after my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis?

While metastatic breast cancer is not a curable disease, that does not mean you cannot live the best possible quality of life even after your diagnosis. After your treatment, we highly encourage you to join support groups and more that can help you adapt to your new life.

References
  1. Hong Kong Cancer Registry, Hospital Authority (October 2020) Female Breast Cancer in 2018. Retrieved from https://www3.ha.org.hk/cancereg/pdf/factsheet/2018/breast_2018.pdf. Accessed 18 January, 2021.
  2. National Breast Cancer Foundation Australia (2020). Stage 4 – Metastatic Breast Cancer. Retrieved from https://nbcf.org.au/about-national-breast-cancer-foundation/about-breast-cancer/stages-types-treatment-breast-cancer/stage-4-metastatic-breast-cancer. Accessed 13 October, 2020.
  3. Australian Government Cancer Australia (October 2020) Metastatic Breast Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/breast-cancer/types/metastatic-breast-cancer. Accessed 13 October, 2020.
  4. Eske, J. (January 2019). Breast cancer: How fast does it spread? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324314#how-fast-can-breast-cancer-spread. Accessed 13 October, 2020.
  5. Verywell Health (August 2019). How Fast Does Breast Cancer Start, Grow, and Spread? Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/breast-cancer-growth-rate-4175666. Accessed 13 October, 2020.
  6. Providence Health & Services Oregon and Southwest Washington (2020). Ask an Expert: Breast cancer growth rate. Retrieved from https://oregon.providence.org/forms-and-information/a/ask-an-expert-breast-cancer-growth-rate/#. Accessed 13 October, 2020.
  7. Breastcancer.org (October 2018)Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis. Retrieved from https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/types/recur_metast/metastic. Accessed 13 October, 2020.

Disclaimer

This health information is provided for reference only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider.

All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider.