Breast cancer is the kind of cancer that develops in the breast, as the name suggests. Stage 4 is an advanced stage of cancer which is crucial and critical at the same time. At this stage, it is also known as metastatic breast cancer. On the first diagnosis, very few cancers reach stage 4. At stage 4, it could have spread into other parts of the body too. This article is all about treatment for stage 4 Breast cancer.
Stage 4 is a life-threatening, severe, and advanced stage of breast cancer. Facing such a difficult phase is not easy. Till stage 4, many cancers reach in a non-reversible or treatable stage. Still, there are some recommended treatments for stage 4 breast cancer patients.
Curing breast cancer at stage 4 is not easy. But these treatments can increase the life span and life quality of patients. The treatment recommended for stage 4 breast cancer is as follows.
Treatment Options for Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Systematic drug treatment is widely used as the therapy for stage 4 Breast cancer patients. It is a combination of many therapies like chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or any combination of these therapies. Sometimes local treatments like radiation therapy or surgery might help to relieve symptoms of stage 4 Breast cancer.
HER2 is a human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 which could play a crucial role in Breast cancer development. Status of hormone receptors and HER2 are the responsible factors that decide the types of drugs being used for the treatment of stage 4 Breast cancer.
a. Positive Hormone Receptors-
Patients who have positive, either ER-positive or PR positive, are first treated with hormone therapy. Tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor is used in this hormone therapy. This hormone therapy drug could be combined with some target drugs like Everolimus (Afinitor), Palbociclib (Ibrance), Abemaciclib (Verzenio), or Ribociclib (Kisqali). Tamoxifen is the drug that prevents ovaries from making hormones. This drug is used for patients who have not entered menopause. This drug is used in combination with other drugs as hormone therapy takes the time of months to show effects.
b. Negative Hormone Receptors-
Chemotherapy is the main treatment used for those patients who have negative hormone receptors. It could be either ER-negative or PR negative. Hormone therapy does not work for negative hormone receptor situations, so, chemotherapy is the best option in such cases. Chemotherapy is also the first treatment option for patients who have serious cancer spread problem. This article has very helping material about treatment for stage 4 Breast cancer.
c. Positive HER2-
Patients who have positive HER2 test results should be given a combined therapy. Chemotherapy or hormonal therapy or any anti-HER2 drug should be given with Trastuzumab (Herceptin) which is a targeted drug. This combined therapy treatment might help the patient to live a little longer. Pertuzumab (Perjeta) is a targeted drug that could be added to the treatment as well. Some more options for targeted drugs are Ado-Trastuzumab Emtansine (Kadcyla) which is prescribed with lapatinib.
d. Negative HER2 with Mutation of BRCA Genes-
Patients who have HER2 test negative with a mutation in BRCA genes are generally treated with combined treatment of therapy with a drug. Hormonal therapy or chemotherapy according to the positive or negative status of hormone receptors, combined with a targeted drug which is a PARP inhibitor like Olaparib (Lynparza).
Above mentioned treatments are given to the patients until their tumor starts to grow again or until the side effects of these treatments become unacceptable for the patient’s body.
2. Local Treatment for Stage 4 Breast cancer
Systematic drug treatment is the main and primary treatment for stage 4 Breast cancer patients. In some cases, local treatments are used as well, such as regional chemotherapy, radiation, or even surgery. These treatments are not permanent as they can treat cancer of a particular part of the body. To get rid of complete cancer, these local treatments would not work effectively.
The primary purpose of using these techniques is to prevent the symptoms of cancer or any further complication during cancer. There are specific conditions when radiation therapy or surgery could be used. Situations which require radiation therapy or surgery are-
• When there is an open wound in the breast due to cancer
• To prevent bones from getting fractured
• To provide relief from pain
• When the spread area of cancer becomes problematic for backbone
• To treat any blockage of blood vessels in the liver
Whenever a doctor recommends for any local treatment for cancer, they aim to prevent or symptoms only. Regional chemotherapy if delivered directly to the fluid area of the brain and spinal cord then it could be very beneficial as well.
Survival Rates At 4th Stage of Breast cancer
There is a 27 percent chance of survival for 5 years after the progression of cancer to the 4th stage. Survival rates also depend on many other factors. Different subtypes of Breast cancer react differently. Some subtypes could be more aggressive, while some could be less aggressive. Survival rates also depend on the location and severity of cancer. Suppose if your cancer is spread to bones only then your survival chances are more compared to someone whose cancer has spread to bones and lungs.
In this article, most preferred and possible treatments have been mentioned which could be used to treat a patient in stage 4 of Breast cancer. The information mentioned in the article justifies that stage 4 Breast cancer is an advanced stage of cancer. If a patient has reached this stage, her survival chances are very low.
All the treatments being mentioned in this article are either to treat symptoms or to provide some relief to patients from symptoms of the final stage of cancer. Still, as mentioned, some hope is there for the patient to get cured even of this stage. To recover properly, the right course of treatment should be decided under the observation of an oncologist only.