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Advanced Breast Cancer 101 (Video)

Advanced Breast Cancer 101

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Each Voice Counts - The Experts (Video)

Each Voice Counts — The Experts

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What is advanced breast cancer?

Breast cancer begins when abnormal cancerous cells in the breast grow and multiply without stopping, creating a tumor. Breast cancer usually starts in the ducts or lobules of the breast.

"Advanced breast cancer" usually refers to metastatic breast cancer, also called Stage IV breast cancer. Breast cancer that has spread locally in the area of the breast, but not to distant organs and tissues, is often referred to as "locally advanced breast cancer," or Stage III breast cancer. Given these various and sometimes inconsistent terms, if you or a loved one is diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, it's important to discuss with your doctor specifically what stage it is and its other characteristics (eg, hormone receptor status and where the cancer has spread). Knowing these details of a diagnosis can help you make important treatment decisions.

Although this website refers to the two stages collectively as "advanced breast cancer," it is important to note that not all health professionals use the term consistently. "Advanced cancer" in general often means that the cancer is "metastatic" ie, has spread from where it started to distant parts of the body.

Advanced breast cancer is usually treated with systemic therapy (drugs that travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells in the body). Systemic therapy includes hormonal treatment, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. You can learn more about treatment here.

How is breast cancer staged?
What is metastasis and how does it happen?
How does a doctor know whether cancer is a primary or metastatic tumor?
What are the symptoms of metastatic cancer?
What is a recurrence?