Prognosis for metastatic breast cancer determines the survival rate for an individual by taking into consideration several factors. The following article provides information about the various factors that affect the survival rate of people affected by this condition.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. It is the second leading cause of death in women. The treatment options available for this condition are radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and breast surgery. However, early diagnosis is very important for successful treatment of this condition. Metastasis is a condition in which the cancer spreads to other parts of body like, the bones, lungs, or liver. Metastatic breast cancer is particularly dangerous if it spreads to vital organs such as liver, kidney, intestine, etc. The symptoms of this condition may differ from the normal breast cancer symptoms, as other organs are also affected in this stage.
There are several factors called ‘prognostic factors’ which determine the prognosis for women who are affected by metastatic breast cancer. The survival rate is about 82% for women with stage II cancer, while it drops to about 14% for women with stage IV cancer.
Extent of Metastasis
Prognosis is better when the cancer is limited only to fewer sites. Thus, woman with the cancer spread to only a few organs has a better prognosis than the one who has large metastasis. Also, the location of the affected organs determine the prognosis. Metastasis to the organs that are closer to the breast indicate better prognosis than the distant ones.
Type of Affected Organ
The organ which is affected is also important in determining the prognosis. For instance, in case of metastatic breast cancer to liver or kidney, the prognosis is far worse than to the organs that are not a part of the viscera. Spread to the tissues of chest wall or lymph nodes indicate better prognosis.
Period Between Relapse
Breast cancer has a tendency to surface again and again. Therefore, the period between the initial breast cancer treatment and the relapse is also an important prognostic factor. The larger this period, the better it is for the patient. For instance, a woman who has been cancer free for two years after the first treatment has better survival rate than the one who developed it a couple of months after the first treatment. Recurring cancer decreases the survival chances.
Certain hormones stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Certain cancer cells have hormone receptors, which tell the cells to grow in presence of a particular hormone. Tests are performed to check whether cancer cells have hormone receptors and if they are found, then the corresponding hormone is found out. Hormone therapy may also be performed to control the levels of this hormone, so that it does not trigger the growth of cancer cells.
HER-2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor-2. It is a protein and its level is an indication of the activity of cancer cells. High level of HER-2 indicates active and aggressive cancer. This, obviously means a bad prognosis. However, the good news is that this protein responds well to some cancer drugs, which indicates fairly good prognosis.
The survival rate can vary depending upon the health of the patient. A bad prognosis need not always indicate very less time. In fact, many patients report a healthy and quality life in spite of having a bad prognosis.