How To Treat Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer is also known as State 4 Breast Cancer and is a medical condition in which cancerous cells spread to other parts of body. Through lymphatic system and blood circulation system, cancerous cells from breasts travels to other parts of body like bones, brain, lungs and skin.

Though metastatic breast cancer is not curable, there are certain treatment options that help in preventing the worsening of symptoms and spread of disease. These treatments are also helpful in extending the life of affected woman and in maintaining the life quality in the best possible manner. Three types of treatments that are commonly given to patients of metastatic cancer are endocrine therapy, HER2 targeted therapy and Chemotherapy.

Endocrine Therapy

In this type of treatment, growth of breast cancer cells is prevented by interfering with the action of hormones that support growth of cancerous cells. Hormone receptors are generally found in the breast cancers that respond to hormones. For example, a female suffering from metastatic cancer may have progesterone receptor or estrogen receptor or both. In endocrine therapy, not only levels of estrogen in the body are lowered but also actions of this hormone are suppressed.

Goal of this therapy is to prevent stimulation of cancer cells by the hormones. If any woman is diagnosed with positive hormone receptor, this type of treatment is usually the first to be given. Type of endocrine therapy actually given to the patient also depends on the age of woman. For example, treatment for menstruating women is different from the treatment that is given to women who do not menstruate.

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HER2 Targeted Therapy

This type of treatment is given to those women who have high levels of HER2, a protein. In this therapy, drugs are used for suppressing the symptoms. Two drugs that are commonly used are Trastuzumab and Lapatinib. Drug Trastuzumab can be given alone or along with chemotherapy. This drug is usually given once is three weeks. However, if needed, small quantities of this drug can be administered once in a week also.

Consumption of this drug also leads to some side effects. For example, fever is the commonest side effect of this drug. In rare cases, cardiac failure also occurs. Side effects generally disappear when consumption of drug is stopped. Course of action of drug Lapatinib is different from that of Trastuzumab. It can be administered alone or in combination of Trastuzumab. Commonest side effects of this drug are diarrhea, nausea and skin rashes.


If a woman suffering from breast cancer does not have hormonal receptors or HER2 protein, chemotherapy is the only option left. Chemotherapy is generally done for stopping the growth of cancer cells. This type of treatment is given as periodic treatment and duration of one cycle may vary from 21 days to 28 days. Drugs are basically given for destroying the cancerous cells that have spread to other parts of body.

Apart from above, Novel Targeted Therapy and Radiation Therapy are two other treatments that are also given to patients of metastatic breast cancer. In radiation therapy, high energy beams are used for killing the cancer cells while in Novel targeted therapy, some biological therapies are used.