Understanding breast cancer treatment at Stage IV

Stage IV breast cancer is also known as advanced breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer. Instead of treating breast cancer at the source of the tumor, physicians take a systemic approach to care for patients at stage IV of the disease. Here is what you need to know about stage IV breast cancer and how it is treated.

What are the characteristics of stage IV breast cancer?
At stage IV, breast cancer has metastasized beyond the breast tissue and the lymph nodes near the breast to other parts of the body. Some of the organs that are often involved when breast cancer spreads are:

  • Bones
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Brain

Because the cancer is now in more than one part of the body at stage IV, your cancer care team will need to treat the disease in all of the parts of the body that are affected.

What is systemic care?
Systemic care for cancer means that the treatments are targeted at the body as a whole, instead of being focused on the localized site of the cancer. For stage IV breast cancer, this means not only treating cancer at the site of the tumor in the breast but instead taking a broader approach to care.

Some of the systemic treatments used for stage IV breast cancer are:

  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy

Often, women receive a combination of these systemic treatments. Although stage IV breast cancer is usually not considered to be curable, these treatments can stop the progression of the disease and help women live longer.

Are localized treatments still used?
In some instances, localized treatments can be combined with systemic care to achieve the best results. For example, your physician may recommend surgery to remove a tumor or radiation of a specific affected location in order to boost the effectiveness of systemic care.

Good Samaritan Hospital provides comprehensive cancer care in San Jose, combining the very latest discoveries in medical advances with compassionate support from a multidisciplinary team of specialists. Contact us today at (888) 724-2362 for more information about our cancer care program and to get a referral to one of our cancer specialists.

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