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Metastatic Breast Cancer: Prognosis, Symptoms, and Treatment

Metastatic Breast Cancer: Prognosis, Symptoms, and Treatment

Metastatic breast cancer, usually defined as stage IV cancer, is a form of breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and to other body parts and tissues. The spreading of these cancerous cells usually starts at the nearby lymph nodes and can continue to other areas such as distant lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, and in some cases, even the brain. Although breast cancer is considered the most common form of cancer in women, the rate of women with metastatic breast cancer continues to decrease, primarily due to early screening and more accurate diagnostics. Although the prognosis of metastatic breast cancer has no cure, treatment options do exist, and stage 4 breast cancer survival rates continue to improve as treatment aims to stop or slow down the spreading of the cancer.

Metastatic Breast Cancer guide and support at Sheba Medical Center

Metastatic breast cancer prognosis

The prognosis for metastatic breast cancer varies significantly from patient to patient. When determining the prognosis, you must first assess the degree to which the metastasis has spread in the body and the specific breast cancer diagnosis. Based on this prognosis, we can more easily determine a treatment for the disease and the expected results that it will have on the patient.

Survival rate and life expectancy

According to the American Cancer Society, the stage 4 breast cancer survival rate for people with metastatic breast cancer in the US stands at 30%. That being said, survival rates may vary considerably depending on several factors, such as:

  • The type of cancerous cells and their characteristics
  • The target cells with metastasis
  • Symptoms
  • History of breast cancer and other tumors
  • Age and general health
  • The patient’s approach and attitude to the illness

It is important to remember that with modern medicine, the prognosis of metastatic breast cancer is improving considerably as treatment becomes more effective. In current times, people with metastatic breast cancer are living longer and have a better quality of life than in the past.

metastatic breast cancer detection by MIRA 3D


The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can be extensive and vary depending on the areas where the cancer has spread and the type of tissue the cancer cells have invaded. Some common locations for metastases and their symptoms include:

  • Bones: swelling, fractures or breaks, pain
  • Brain: pressure to the head or headaches, seizures, disturbed vision, vomiting or nausea, changes to behavior or personality
  • Liver: jaundice, itchy skin or rash, increase in liver enzymes, stomach pain, loss of appetite, vomiting or nausea
  • Lungs: chest pain, chronic cough, shortness of breath, abnormal chest X-ray

In addition to location-specific symptoms, other general symptoms may appear, such as fatigue and weight loss. If you notice any of the above symptoms, it is recommended that you get in touch with your physician and look into it further.


With routine breast screenings and advanced detection technologies, we see fewer patients with metastatic breast cancer cases. However, in cases where the cancer isn't detected in its early stages, treatments are available that can improve the prognosis. The efficacy of these treatments relies on an accurate diagnosis, including precise staging and pathologic analysis. Here are some of the most common forms of treatment available for metastatic breast cancer:

Hormone therapy

This is a standard treatment option for advanced breast cancer patients where the type of cancer is affected by hormones such as estrogen or progesterone, otherwise known as hormone receptor-positive tumors.


In some cases, chemotherapy may be used as the primary treatment for women whose cancer has spread outside the breast and underarm area to other parts of the body and more distant organs.

Radiation therapy

Often used alongside other treatments for advanced breast cancer, radiation therapy destroys cancer cells by using high-energy rays: controlling their spreading.


While surgery may not cure advanced breast cancer by removing it entirely, it can be highly beneficial in some situations as it can slow down the cancer’s spread or relieve pain and other symptoms.

examination for metastatic breast cancer

Sheba’s Meirav Breast Center

The Meirav Breast Cancer sees over 4,000 breast cancer patients yearly, performing around 12,000 mammograms, 51,000 ultrasounds, 3,200 MRIs, and 2,500 biopsies to date, and treating more breast cancer patients than any other medical center in Israel. Not only does Sheba excel in its detection and treatment of breast cancer, but it continues to conduct research and develop techniques to improve the prevention and treatment of the disease. With Sheba’s 360-degree care approach, each patient is treated as a unique individual, receiving a personalized therapy program based on his specific condition.

Anna’s story: Breast cancer treatment at Sheba

In September 2020, Anna, A carrier of the BRCA1 gene, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. The tiding hit very close to home as she had lost both her mother and grandmother to the disease. After receiving the devastating diagnosis, Anna and her husband decided to act immediately and promptly coordinated her arrival for treatment at Sheba Medical Center.
According to Anna:

“At the time, the COVID-19 pandemic made traveling very difficult, but Sheba responded to my request quickly, and within just a matter of days, I was already on my way to Israel.”

Upon Arrival at Sheba, Anna was presented with her treatment options, and together with a team of specialists, an optimal treatment was prepared.

“I was very nervous before my first chemotherapy session. Even though I knew that not much could go wrong and that the treatment would help my condition, I was still scared. What if there are strong side effects? What if I feel bad? What if it doesn’t help? Fortunately, I was surrounded by kind people who understood my fears and supported me along the way.”

Anna’s response to treatment was very positive, and after eight months in Israel, she returned to Siberia with a new positive outlook on life.

“To anyone facing similar challenges, I would like to say that the most important thing is never giving up and maintaining a positive outlook, stay strong and believe that everything will be okay.”

Anna’s Story of Hope and Healing

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Sheba Medical Center provides innovative, personalized medical care to patients from around the world. We are the largest, most comprehensive hospital in the Middle East and dedicated to providing advanced and compassionate medicine for everyone.

We welcome all cases, including the rarest and the most challenging. Our medical teams collaborate to provide the best possible health outcomes. From your initial inquiry through the long-term follow-up care, we are here for you.

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