Breast cancer is called metastatic when it originates in the breast and then spreads to other parts of the body: bones, lungs, liver, and sometimes the brain. Treating breast cancer involves a combination of several different therapies, which include hormonal, radiation, and others. The primary motive of metastatic breast cancer treatment is to control the growth and spread of cancerous cells, to relieve the symptoms of cancer and to maintain the best possible quality of life because this type of cancer is not completely curable.
The most appropriate method of metastatic breast cancer treatment depends on the folowing:
- Finding the treatment that the this type cancer responds to
- Ability of the affected person to cope with the side effects
- The location and size of breast cancer cells
- The extent to which the cancer cells have spread and to which parts of the body
- Past treatments in case there has been a diagnosis at the primary stage
- Characteristics of cancer cells, whether hormone receptors or not
Advanced metastatic breast cancer treatment involves treating with one or more of the following systemic therapies:
- Hormonal therapy: These are drugs that are given to women who have hormone receptors on their breast cancer cells. It can slow or stop the growth of cancer cells or make them smaller. For some, the benefits may last for years.
- Chemotherapy: This is used on those who do not have hormone receptors on their breast cancer cells. It also works when cancer cells have stopped responding to hormone therapy or when the cancer is spreading very fast.
- Targeted therapy: Also called biological therapy, this therapy involves drugs that stop the growth of the particular type of cancer cells. It is suitable in particular cases only and has to be used in combination with other treatments.
- Radiotherapy: It is used to reduce the size of breast cancer cells in some parts of the body, especially in the bones. It may also be used to control regional recurrence in the skin, neck or under the arm.
- Surgery: Although not routinely done, it helps when breast cancer is primary cancer. It may be done to relieve the distress.
Breast cancer treatment for most patients is very stressful. It is necessary for the patient undergoing breast cancer treatment to talk with the consulting doctor and the members of the healthcare team regarding any apprehensions and to maintain a good quality of life.