Any diagnosis of breast cancer can be overwhelming, but a diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer can be heartbreaking. However, with advances in modern medical technology and treatments, many women and men, are living with chronic breast cancer for longer periods of time.
What is Stage 4 Breast Cancer
A diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer means that either the cancer has returned or the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other areas of the body and vital organs. These typically include the liver, lungs, bones, or brain. At this point, the cancer is no longer curable, but it can be treated.
Please keep in mind that while breast cancer is seen as a disease of women, men can develop breast cancer, as well. Unfortunately, as one ages, the chances of developing the disease increase.
Whether you’re elderly or not, there are four breast cancer stages, ranging from Stage 1 to Stage 4. According to the American Cancer Society, When detected early, in Stage 1, the 5-year survival rate is about 100%. The 5-year life expectancy of someone with Stage 4 breast cancer is 22%. Of course, many of those individuals survive well past the five year anniversary milestone.
Treatments of Stage 4 Breast Cancer
The good news is that treatments for Stage 4 breast cancer have come a long way and research is ongoing. This means the options for treatment can be somewhat overwhelming. Your physician can help you decide what is right for you. The following are some of the most common treatment plans for Stage 4 breast cancer.
- Radiation Therapy – Radiation is targeted to the tumor area with the goal of destroying the cancerous tissue.
- Hormone Therapy – Certain hormones such as estrogen can help some types of cancers to grow. By stopping or blocking these hormones in your body, it can help reduce new cancer growth.
- Surgery – This will be used to remove tumors or whole areas such as the breast.
Side Effects of Stage 4 Breast Cancer
When dealing with Stage 4 breast cancer, you can expect to experience several side effects. One of the most prevalent is fatigue. This can be caused by the treatments you are undergoing or a low red blood cell count or even worry. Fatigue can be reduced, so it is important to let your doctor know how you are feeling.
Pain can be associated with later stages of cancer. Chronic pain can interrupt sleep, decrease your appetite, and even effect concentration, but pain can be managed. Understanding your level of pain and reporting it to your doctor can help you control it. Consider keeping a pain journal, so your doctor has enough information to treat it properly.
You may also find that you have a decreased appetite. This is normal, but it can be upsetting to those around you. Do explain that it isn’t that you don’t want to eat. You simply can’t. This is not the time to have battles about food intake.
Stage 4 breast cancer can be a scary diagnosis for anyone, but it can be managed and controlled. With the right medical team and the support of family and friends, a senior adult can survive Stage 4 breast cancer and continue to have an enjoyable and meaningful life.