Cancer spreading to other parts of your body is called metastasis. Doctors also call it metastatic cancer or stage 4 cancer.
Naming your metastasized cancer sometimes causes confusion. A good example of this is breast cancer after it spreads in your body, such as to your bones. The cancer in your bones is called metastatic breast cancer. It does not change to being called bone cancer. This is because the breast cancer cells are unique to that type of cancer. When breast cancer spreads to your bones, the cells are still the mutated breast cells and not mutated bone cells.
Treatment of metastatic cancer depends on your cancer’s type, treatment options available to you and your personal preferences. Other important factors in treatment decision-making include your age, overall health and past treatments. For metastatic cancer, available treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and biologic therapy.
There are specific goals for your metastatic cancer treatment. These differ from your early diagnosis of cancer, if the disease’s discovery took place before it metastasized. In the past your goal included gaining a cure for your disease. After a metastasis, a cure sometimes is not possible. Your doctor is your best resource for understanding your treatment goals.
If your cancer treatment no longer applies toward a cure, the goal likely includes enabling you to live with your cancer as long as possible and with the best possible health. Such a goal includes four sub-goals, including:
Your goals may differ from those of someone else in cancer treatment, even at the same stage and with the same type of cancer. Your goals are yours, alone. In your cancer treatment you do have control over how things proceed.
Talk to your treatment team about your options for treatment after metastatic cancer. Ask whatever questions help you arrive at your most confident treatment decisions.