What is Stage IV Breast Cancer? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Stage IV is an advanced form of breast cancer.
Stage IV is an advanced form of breast cancer.

Stage IV breast cancer is an advanced form of breast cancer that has progressed beyond the breast to more remote areas of the body. It is a form of metastatic cancer, meaning the cancer is growing in areas other than the location where it originated, and the prognosis can be grim for patients, but it is potentially survivable. Stage IV breast cancer treatment usually needs to be aggressive in order to stop further growth of the tumor.

Mammograms are performed to detect the presence of breast cancer.
Mammograms are performed to detect the presence of breast cancer.

Sometimes, patients have what is known as primary metastatic cancer; at the time of initial diagnosis, the cancer has already started to spread. This can happen when people delay care for suspicious signs like breast lumps or when a cancer evades detection until it has started spreading to areas like the lungs, brain, and bones. In other cases, stage IV breast cancer occurs as a recurrent cancer, developing after treatment fails, or when treatment fails to halt progression of the cancer.

Surgery is typically an option for patients with stage IV breast cancer.
Surgery is typically an option for patients with stage IV breast cancer.

Treatment options for stage IV breast cancer can include surgery to remove tumors, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormones. It is usually not possible to cure the cancer, but it may be controllable with therapy. Some patients respond well to treatment and experience a shrinkage of the tumors and an extended lifespan. Other patients may not respond to treatment and palliative care may be recommended to keep them comfortable in their remaining months of life.

Chemotherapy is a treatment option for stage IV breast cancer.
Chemotherapy is a treatment option for stage IV breast cancer.

Patients diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer may find it helpful to see a specialist for a second opinion on the cancer and the treatment options. Clinicians have radically different approaches to cancer treatment and some may have more information about clinical trials as a potential treatment plan. Patients with advanced cancer are usually eligible for clinical trials and compassionate use programs, as it is understood that their chances of survival are much lower than patients with less advanced cancers of the breast.

While the prognosis for stage IV breast cancer can be grim, the disease is potentially survivable.
While the prognosis for stage IV breast cancer can be grim, the disease is potentially survivable.

If treatment is successful and patients survive stage IV breast cancer, they will need to be monitored for life for signs of recurring or spreading tumors. This should include regular doctor visits, as well as medical imaging studies, and patients are usually encouraged to report any suspicious signs and symptoms to their care providers. It is also advisable to make sure the history of metastatic cancer is recorded in the patient's chart, as it can be important to know when patients are being evaluated and treated for other conditions.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Stage IV is an advanced form of breast cancer.
      Stage IV is an advanced form of breast cancer.
    • Mammograms are performed to detect the presence of breast cancer.
      Mammograms are performed to detect the presence of breast cancer.
    • Surgery is typically an option for patients with stage IV breast cancer.
      Surgery is typically an option for patients with stage IV breast cancer.
    • Chemotherapy is a treatment option for stage IV breast cancer.
      Chemotherapy is a treatment option for stage IV breast cancer.
    • While the prognosis for stage IV breast cancer can be grim, the disease is potentially survivable.
      While the prognosis for stage IV breast cancer can be grim, the disease is potentially survivable.
    • In some cases, advanced breast cancer metastasizes to the brain or another organ that is not in close proximity.
      In some cases, advanced breast cancer metastasizes to the brain or another organ that is not in close proximity.
    • Patients diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer may find it helpful to get a second opinion regarding treatment options for the disease.
      Patients diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer may find it helpful to get a second opinion regarding treatment options for the disease.