Emergency:

Helpline:

Life Expectancy of Stage 4 Breast Cancer

By Dr. Garvit Chitkara in Nanavati Max Institute of Cancer Care , Breast Cancer Program

Apr 24 , 2023 | 4 min read

4

Overview

Breast cancer is the most common and life-threatening ailment in females, with over 2.3 million cases globally. It majorly affects middle-aged women over 50 years. Like other cancers, it is divided into stages from 0 to 4 based on its spread across the body. Many factors affect diagnosis, treatment, and the success of the treatment. Here you'll learn about stage 4 breast cancer survival rate and more.

What is stage 4 breast cancer?

Stage 4 breast cancer is also known as terminal or metastatic breast cancer. It is a life-threatening stage of breast cancer. In this stage, the disease is spread across surrounding bones, tissues, and lymph nodes. It can spread to the lungs, liver, and brain.

Mainly stage 4 develops long after the individual is diagnosed with breast cancer. The following factors are considered to diagnose stage 4 breast cancer:

  • Tumor size
  • Spread of cancer to nearby lymph nodes
  • Spread of cancer to distant sites
  • Grade of cancer
  • Status of estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2 protein

 

What is the stage 4 breast cancer survival rate?

The median survival rate for all women with stage 4 breast cancer is three years. However, the rate is affected by many factors, including the availability of new treatments and drugs. The survival rate will increase if breast cancer is detected early.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) report says the following about the 5-year survival rate of terminal breast cancer:

  • If cancer spreads to distant regions of the body, the 5-year stage 4 breast cancer survival rate is 29%
  • If cancer spreads only to surrounding lymph nodes or nearby structures, the 5-year survival rate is 86%

Is stage 4 breast cancer curable?

The overall objective of breast cancer treatment is palliative and not curative. It aims to increase life expectancy and the stage 4 breast cancer survival rate. There is a low chance that the treatment can altogether remove cancer. So, the goal is to relieve the symptoms, improve quality of life, and cause minimal possible side effects.

Different patients respond differently to the treatment. Some may respond to it for many years, while others may not. There are chances that cancer may return at some point during the treatment.

In stage 4 breast cancer, a systematic or whole-body approach is used for treatment as it has spread across the body. The treatment includes a combination of the following therapies:

 

The following factors will help in determining the stage 4 breast cancer treatment combinations in individuals:

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Location of cancer
  • Symptoms of patient
  • Previous cancer treatment

How long can you live with stage 4 breast cancer?

There is no answer for how long one can live with stage 4 breast cancer. It varies among individuals and depends upon the following factors:

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Subtype of disease
  • The extent of disease spread
  • Type of treatment
  • Treatment outcomes
  • Remission of the disease

 

Although there are low chances of curing stage 4 breast cancer and high chances of remission of the disease, many patients still live for several years with it. Moreover, some may end up beating cancer.

Treatment plans recommended by doctors with healthy lifestyle habits can significantly improve an individual's quality of life and lifespan.

How long can stage 4 breast cancer survivors live?

The palliative treatment of breast cancer can improve the quality of life and longevity. The treatment outcome and success vary, and there are chances that cancer might reappear. So, instead, one should focus on adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

Breast cancer survivors should make the following lifestyle choices:

  • Eat small portions of meals throughout the day to maintain energy levels
  • Get enough nutrients to support immune cells and their growth
  • Incorporate lean protein in the diet, including soy, nuts, beans, chicken, and egg
  • Eat colorful fruits and vegetables for antioxidants to boost immunity
  • Drink 64 ounces of water daily
  • Choose easy-to-digest foods such as broth, apples, and toast
  • Avoid greasy, spicy, and sweet food
  • Exercise for a short duration every day as per the advice of a doctor
  • Avoid public places that may increase the risk of exposure to germs
  • Find a social support group to keep yourself motivated
  • Seek help from healthcare providers if needed

How painful is stage 4 breast cancer?

Breast cancer cells do not cause pain but exert pressure on the surrounding tissues when they grow. In stage 4 breast cancer, the pain depends upon the following factors:

  • Where the cancer is
  • What kind of cells and tissues are affected by the cancer

 

For instance, if breast cancer spreads to surrounding bones, it can cause continuous bone pain. If it spreads to the brain, it can lead to persistent headaches. Therefore, pain varies among different breast cancer patients.

Pain can be relieved by palliative cancer treatment.

Breast cancer clinical trials at stage 4

Any new drug or treatment option goes through many phases of clinical trials before getting approved for standard treatment. It ensures patient safety and treatment efficacy. As few treatment options are available for stage 4 breast cancer, sometimes clinical trials are considered the last stage of treatment.

Many advanced patients turn to clinical trials and are offered drugs undergoing the latest research. They target the genetic makeup of the cancerous cells and improve treatment outcomes. The consulting doctor will assess the potential risks and benefits of clinical trials and advise accordingly. Conclusion Stage 4 breast cancer survival rates vary among different individuals. Around 29% of individuals with stage 4 breast cancer survive at least five years after diagnosis. The chances are higher if the cancer is diagnosed early and hasn't spread much. The treatment depends upon the individual's age, health, and the spread of cancer. The treatment goal is to increase the lifespan and quality of life.

The consulting doctor may recommend clinical trials to advanced patients for newer treatment options.

Conclusion

Stage 4 breast cancer survival rates vary among different individuals. Around 29% of individuals with stage 4 breast cancer survive at least five years after diagnosis. The chances are higher if the cancer is diagnosed early and hasn't spread much. The treatment depends upon the individual's age, health, and the spread of cancer. The treatment goal is to increase the lifespan and quality of life. The consulting doctor may recommend clinical trials to advanced patients for newer treatment options.