Treatment of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is crucial to help you live with your disease with a good quality of life. Your oncologist will explain the dierent treatment options that are available to you. They will explain the possible benefits and risks for each of them. Your oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for you. But you will make the decision to move forward with a plan, together.
There is no single ‘best’ treatment for MBC, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for you. Some people may receive a combination of therapies, while others may receive only one therapy at a time.
There are many dierent factors that affect which treatment IS BEST FOR YOU. These factors include the biology of the tumour, the sites of metastases in your body, any prior treatments you have received for breast cancer, and any treatments you are currently taking for other diseases.
The goal of treatment is to help control the spread of cancer in your body and improve your quality of life.
This is because your cancer can develop resistance to a given treatment, and you may need to switch to another treatment to which your cancer is more likely to respond. You may stop taking a treatment because of side affect.
Everyone reacts differently to different treatments, so it is impossible to predict if your cancer will respond to a treatment or not. Always remember that the decision to take a certain treatment, or to change treatments, is one that you should make with your doctor.
MBC is treated with drug therapy. Radiation, and rarely surgery, may also be used when necessary for disease or symptom control. The three main types of drug therapy that you can be oered to control your cancer are chemotherapy, anti-hormonal therapy and targeted therapy. In addition, you may be given treatments to help relieve the symptoms of the cancer or of the metastases in your body. Among the most important of these treatments are bone stabilising agents such as bisphosphonates or denosumab which are given to help strengthen your bones, particularly in cases of bone metastases.
Side effects depend on the particular type of treatment you are receiving – and vary greatly from drug to drug. Also, everyone reacts dierently to treatment. The side eects one person has may be very dierent from the ones that you have.
Some of the most common side effects of cancer treatment include feeling tired or exhausted (fatigue), pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hair loss, low white blood cell count, and weight gain or weight loss.
Always tell your doctor or nurse about any side eects you may be having. There are supplemental treatments available they can give you that can help with the side eects - or they may want to adjust the cancer treatment. What feels like a side effect could be a sign of the cancer growing.
It is a good idea to plan for this until you know how you will feel. Do not schedule any events that you cannot cancel for the first few days after getting an intravenous treatment. Just take time to take care of yourself.2
THERE IS NO ‘MAGIC MEDICINE’ that will completely take away the side effects of treatment – it’s a question of you finding what works best for you. For example, some women find that exercise and complementary therapies – such as yoga or acupuncture – are particularly helpful.3
Not everyone experiences side effects with treatment. So if you are not having any side effects, it does not mean that your treatment is not working.
There is a lot that you can do to make the best out of each appointment you have with your doctor. Some key tips are:
Prepare some questions in advance so that you are sure you don’t forget to ask them.
Always try to bring a family member or friend with you to each appointment to take notes and listen, so that you can be sure you do not miss anything the doctor or care team tells you
Take notes so that you can refer back to them when you are at home
Take your time and don’t be afraid to request more time from your care team: You deserve it, and it will allow you to take a more active role in any decisions made about your care.
! There is no single way to treat MBC that is right for everyone.
Treatment for MBC is life-long – and you may have to take different treatments over time.✓
Always tell your doctor about any side effects you may be having. There are things they can do to help.✓
Try not to plan anything you can’t cancel for the first few days after your intravenous treatment.