Metastatic, or “advanced,” breast cancer is cancer that started in the breast tissue but that has spread to other parts of the body. The most common sites where breast cancer can spread are the bones, lungs, liver, and brain. Disease that has spread to other parts of the body is still considered breast cancer because the type of cancer cell remains the same. Although metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured, there are options available to treat the disease.
You are not alone—there are people going through similar experiences who may be able to provide guidance and support for you. You can connect with them through these organizations.
There are different subtypes of breast cancer. Each subtype behaves and responds to treatment in a different way. Because of this, your treatment for breast cancer will depend on what subtype of the disease you have. A doctor can determine the subtype of the disease by looking at a sample of the breast cancer tissue.
Each subtype has specific receptors that can tell your cancer to grow. Receptors include
If the cancer has a specific type of receptor, it is positive for that receptor. For example, a cancer with the hormone receptor ER is called ER-positive, or ER+, disease. A cancer may be positive for more than 1 type of receptor. This means that your disease can have the following receptor statuses:
It is also possible for a cancer to be negative for all 3 receptors. This type of cancer is called triple-negative disease. When breast cancer is triple-negative, it means that there are no estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors in the tumor cells telling the cancer to grow. Triple-negative breast cancer is considered to be more aggressive because it is more likely to spread and also more likely to come back after treatment. Triple-negative breast cancer is often treated with a chemotherapy or with a combination of different types of therapies.
It is important to talk to your doctor about the treatment options available to you based on the receptor status of your cancer.