What is the treatment for metastatic breast cancer?

For most patients with metastatic breast cancer, chemotherapy and/or sex hormone-blocking medications are routinely used. Additionally, medications that strengthen bones may be used in patients with metastatic disease in the bones. In patients who are at risk of developing bone fractures or nerve compression from metastatic tumors in the bone, radiation therapy may also be helpful.

Dr. Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgeon

Metastatic breast cancer has a low five-year survival rate. Treatment is focused on chronic disease management with the goals of prolonging life and reducing symptoms. Treatment is dependent on: the size and location of metastases, tumor cell characteristics, age, overall health, current symptoms and treatment history.

Hormone therapy can help to shrink the tumor without the side effects of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be used when hormone therapy is not an option; it is used to stop tumor growth and to kill cancer cells. Targeted-therapy is drug therapy that can be used with cancer cells with specific characteristics. Radiation therapy can be beneficial in reducing pain, and shrinking the tumor size. Surgery can be done for palliative purposes (decreasing pain and tumor size).

There are many different treatments for metastatic breast cancer, ranging from chemotherapy to hormonal therapy. We usually do not perform surgery for metastatic disease.

The aim of the treatment for metastatic breast cancer is to gain control of the cancer and to keep people as well and safe as possible for as long as possible.

There are many different treatments for metastatic breast cancer. People might receive one of these treatments or a combination. Treatments to control the growth and spread of the cancer may include chemotherapy, targeted/biological therapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy or sometimes surgery. Not everyone with metastatic breast cancer has chemotherapy. If they do, it is sometimes combined with targeted/biologic therapy. The doctors may suggest people do a clinical trial. Clinical trials aim to find new cancer treatments that could be helpful for people with cancer.

Most treatments control the cancer, but there’s also another option called palliative care. It doesn’t control the cancer, but it does relieve problems like pain so that people are comfortable.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.