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Topic: Is Stage IV Ever Curable?

Forum: Stage IV and Metastatic Breast Cancer ONLY — A place for those managing the ups & downs of a Stage IV/metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. Please respect that this forum is for Stage IV members only or those posting on behalf of a Stage IV patient. There is a separate forum for Stage IV Caregivers/Family in "Support and Community Connections".

Posted on: Apr 1, 2011 10:11PM, edited Apr 1, 2011 10:37PM by Meggy

Meggy wrote:

I have a very dear old friend that I am asking this question for.  She was diagnosed with hormone positive BC three years ago.  At the time, she had a mastectomy (outside of the US) and they found "multiple positive nodes".  She then came to the US and sought advice from a major medical breast cancer center.  At the time, her scans were clean.  (Actually maybe not but lets just say they were clear.)  The head of this major BC center told her it was good that the cancer had not spread and did not recommend any chemo.  No flippin chemo.  Multiple positive nodes yet no chemo recommended.  He then put her on Temoxifen only.  

A year ago the cancer came back to her lung lining and spine.  After 5 months of coughing and fluid in her lungs, she was FINALLY diagnosed with mets to her lung.  He has had her on Abraxane for the past year and her scans are clear.  (I hope that is at least true...I'm so angry).

My sisters, tell me, is it ever curable once it hits the lung/bone?  Is there such a thing as a cure at that point? 

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Posts 1 - 28 (28 total)

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Apr 1, 2011 11:36PM Ready2Win wrote:

I am sorry this has happened to your friend but stage iv breast cancer is not curable. There are lots of woman living for many years with a decent QOL. There are plenty of treatment options available. I hope she is able to find the one that works for her for a long time. Good luck!!

Dx 12/20/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage IV, 0/0 nodes, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2+
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Apr 2, 2011 02:39AM, edited Apr 2, 2011 02:40AM by motherofpatient

No chemo? this doctor should be sued and reported to the medical associations in your area. Many women are living for years with stage 4, but they need the right doc, not some idiot like she had.

Did she have chemo when the orginal dx was made? Did the doc in the US have her history of the node involvement? How could they be so careless?

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Apr 2, 2011 04:58AM ElaineD wrote:

No it's not curable. To give you false hope would be cruel. From hereon in she will need treatment of one form or another for the rest of her life-which of course, will be tragically foreshortened.

Dx 11/4/2007, 5cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Apr 2, 2011 05:10AM Heidihill wrote:

Not everyone has health insurance, or good health insurance. I know people in this situation, or who were in this situation. Their treatment plans have to be within a budget unless absolutely necessary. I sometimes don't tell people what therapies I've done because not everyone has the resources to do the same. Nor is it guaranteed that the expensive therapies will work better. Maybe this doesn't apply to your friend though.

Dx 8/2007, IDC, 2cm, Stage IV, 2/19 nodes, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 2, 2011 08:05AM DJ64 wrote:

Often when women are ER/PR + , hormonal therapy is the way to go even with lymph node involvement.  I had widespread pulmonary & pleural metastasis almost 3 years ago, I am ER+ and hormonal therapy is what was prescribe.  I have a few tumors hanging out but they been stable for almost 2 years.

They use to make more of the lymph nodes in the axilla at one time.  I don't think it is the case today.

Once breast cancer cells make a home in another organ, it's stage IV, not curable but treatable.  Many go on to live many years.  Rita Arditti of Cambridge MA lived 30 years with metastatic cancer.  I had a friend who lived 33 years with hers.  They were both hormonal positive ER+.  I am in my 16+ and still doing fine. 

Give your friend support, not your anger. 

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Apr 2, 2011 11:14AM, edited Apr 2, 2011 11:29AM by nurse-ann

I've been stage 4 for most of the 4 1/2 years I've had BC and as everyone has stated - it is not curable.  I will also just briefly state that I think Stage 4 care is generally not up to par or adequate so your friend needs to be very careful who her Onc is and always on her toes and vigilent. 

I switched to my third Onc 3 months ago.  She only does BC at a University and I am not all that impressed with her either.  The Oncology offices are really structured for Stage 1,2,3 people.  They run them through, give them chemo, manage side effects and shove them out the front door to radiation and Avon, Koman, American Cancer marches.

It takes real skill and attention to treat a stage 4 patient.  I'm not going to elaborate on what that entails but if you read other stage 4 posts on this website, you will get the picture.  The doctor needs top notch diagnostic skills in the stage 4 arena.

I feel for what happened to your friend but I have to tell you that I consider Oncology to be the arm pit of modern medicine.  I have wonderful support doctors that I would recommend to anyone  - psycologist, eye doctor, family doctor, urologist. My family doctor actually diagnosed my metastis - not my Onc.   I nearly died two years ago over his poor diagnostic skills and was in hospital for 8 days.  I wouldn't give you 2 cents for all 3 of the Onc's I've had combined. 

Dx 11/18/2006, ILC, 5cm, Stage IV, Grade 2, 15/16 nodes, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 2, 2011 01:27PM katie11 wrote:

Stage IV is not curable, sadly, but it can be treated and controlled. As others have said above, there are some women who manage to live many years with a good QOL though these are the exceptions and not the general rule. I myself have been living with the disease for nearly 5 years now though there has been a recent and rapid decline for me.

"hope for the best, prepare for the worst" is my motto which has helped me along the way. There is always hope for your friend.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!

Dx 7/15/2006, ILC, 2cm, Stage IV, Grade 2, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 2, 2011 01:35PM ibcmets wrote:

Meggy,

We can only tell you what we've heard from our doctors.  Currently, metastatic cancer is not curable, but treatable.  From what I hear, bone mets is easier to treat than organ involvement.  I'm still here and doing well enough since 6/09.

I hear they may start with AI inhibititors or tamoxafin to save the big chemo guns for later.  I had a very aggressive inflammatory bc so the protocal was chemo first.  Best wishes for your friend.

Terri

6/2009: ibc,stage IV bone mets, ER/PR+, Her2-, 1/2011: BMX/Recon, Femara & Zometa;10/13 Aromasin/Afinitor

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Apr 2, 2011 02:50PM JeninMichigan wrote:

I will echo no not curable but treatable.   The success of treatment and disease free survival time depends so much on the individual and the response they experience to their treatment.  I have been free of active disease now for almost three years.   However, I know it can and does rapidly change.      I think our hope is to hang on for the next breakthrough in treatment. 

Jennifer

Dx 2/22/2008, IDC, 2cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 4/9 nodes, mets, ER+/PR-, HER2+
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Apr 2, 2011 09:37PM jenn3 wrote:

Meggy, when I saw your post I thought it was you......... I'm sorry for your friend, I really am, but glad to see it's not you.

Stage IV is not curable as the others have stated, but treatable.  I am still trying to wrap my head around it, but basically you treat it like a chronic illness.  But, make sure that your friend trusts her onc and do research. There are a lot of options out there in many different forms.  I like my onc and really trust him, he is very proactive, reviews the test and films himself to confirm what the reports say, explains everything he can to me and listens to me when I talk.  

(((hugs))))

Jenn - June 2009 IDC-TN, Stage III, 02/2011 Stage IV mets to the lungs & spine / Laugh until your belly hurts, then laugh some more...........

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Apr 3, 2011 12:36AM Mazy1959 wrote:

Meggy,

Hugs to u and your friend. I am also stage 4 with bone mets to my spine. My original diagnosis was stage 2B ILC with 2 micromets in my nodes. I took AC chemo x 6 dose dense and 33 radiation treatments. Mine still came back. Its hard to say if having had chemo wouldve made a difference but my thoughts are that she shouldve had it. We are all different but its pretty common protocol that when someone has positive nodes, that they take chemo. I hated chemo but I'm glad I took it. My onc said that in her opinion, had I not taken chemo, it could've come back more widespread etc. Of course no one knows for sure. I had other precancerous lesions the previous year and I wanted the chemo to not only treat BC but to hopefully kill any other cancer cells looming in my body. I think your friend had a crap oncologist. As the other ladies told you, there is no cure for stage 4. I have had stage 4 for 4 yrs and 4 months. Total time having BC is 7 yrs. I'm getting routine scans this month but theres nothing bad expected etc. I'm on disability from the mets, so I cant work but I've gradually adapted to do the things I can do and enjoy life. I may be considered terminal by some but to me its like having a chronic illness..something like diabetes is treated with insulin..I'm treated with Aromasin and Zometa to keep my cancer under control. I'm thankful I've had this many years and hope to have many more. Its possible that I could live like this for a long time. I dont have false hope and wont give it either, but I refuse to let BC ruin my life. As long as I can care for myself, do the everyday things I need to, babysit my grandsons, read, crochet, sew and type LOL..I'm fine with how I am.  Not being able to work was my biggest hurdle but I knew I had to get over it and I did. I hope your friend can get her BC under control too and be able to live a life that she can accept also. Hugs and luvs, Mazy

Bone marrow mets in 90% of bone marrow.

Dx 3/6/2003, ILC, 3cm, Stage IIb, Grade 2, 2/9 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-Dx 12/19/2006, ILC, 4cm, Stage IV, Grade 2, 0/0 nodes, mets, ER+/PR-, HER2-Dx 4/25/2012, ILC, Stage IV, Grade 2, 0/0 nodes, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-Dx 8/4/2012, ILC, Stage IV, Grade 2, 0/0 nodes, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-Chemotherapy 08/09/2012 Abraxane
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Apr 3, 2011 06:57AM Joy_ wrote:

Distant metastatic breast cancer as an incurable disease: a tenet with a need for revision.
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19197181
--------------------------------
 
Two cases with long-term disease-free survival after resection and radiotherapy for solitary brain
metastasis from breast cancer with extensive nodal metastases.
 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16110293
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Apr 3, 2011 08:15PM Meggy wrote:

Ladies, thank you so much for answering this post (Jenn, thank you for your thoughts).  Does anyone know a good breast oncologist at Georgetown or in that area?  I am so concerned because she is a single mom with 6 and 9 year-old kids with dad out of the picture.

Triple Negative IDC Neoadjuvant chemo 2/08 of 4 dosedense A/C then 4 Taxol, Bilat 6/08, then 2 more AC, then 4 Carbo/Taxotere Node Positive (5+) exact number unknown due to neoadjuvant chemo, then Rads

Dx 1/9/2008, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIIa, Grade 3, ER-/PR-, HER2-Dx Chemotherapy 02/02/2008 Adriamycin, Cytoxan, TaxolSurgery 05/10/2008 Mastectomy (Right); Prophylactic Mastectomy (Left)Chemotherapy 06/04/2008 Adriamycin, carboplatin, Cytoxan, TaxotereRadiation Therapy 09/10/2008 External
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Apr 4, 2011 12:08AM teachersally8467 wrote:

I  had by breast CA diagnosed in 2002 (stage III b). after several chemo, radiation, cobalt therapies, I lived a normal active life as a retiree and as a church and community leader with Tamoxifen. But in August 2010, I was diagnosed with stage IV CA, it has gone to my pelvic and tibial bones. I had Xeloda and Bondronat IV. This February 2011, I experienced shortness of breath at the airport while on my way home for our high school homecoming (Im the Class1961 Valedictorian). This persisted while on our home in Antique. When I returned to Manila last March 18, I was confined the Philippine General Hospital and there I was diagnosed with pleural mets and pleural effusion was the the cause of what feels like a chronic asthma...I was placed with a tube on my chest (CTT)to drain the water off my lung lining...have problems with my platelts,too, it keeps on flactuating and has to be transfused with platelets now and then

Sally Saroca - Pelingon

Dx 12/14/2002, IDC, 5cm, Stage IIIb, Grade 3, 11/21 nodes, mets
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Apr 5, 2011 09:16AM LC815 wrote:

Don't dwell on the chemo thing so much.  I did have chemo at the time of my first diagnosis (5/04), and my onc told me it had only a 16% chance of insuring that I would never have a recurrance.  I had microscopic involvement in two of my nodes.  Well, I as I said, I did my chemo, and the beast came back any way.  If I sat around and had a "What if" party, I'd lose my mind. 

Original Diagnosis 5/04, 2.5 cm. Stage IIB, 2/14 nodes. 9/09 local recurrance and liver mets. Have checked off the following: Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Taxol, Faslodex, Carbo. Now getting beaten up by Gemzar with a Neulasta chaser.

Dx 9/9/2009, IDC, <1cm, Stage IV, 0/0 nodes, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 5, 2011 01:39PM nurse-ann wrote:

I generally agree with the previous response based on my own long experience with chemo and my own opinions on it.  Its more of a maintenance approach for stage 4 than anything else.  I don't believe that their's any existing data supporting it's value for stage 1,2,3 since most have already had surgury and their cancer is unmeasurable and the risk not possible to determine. 

Dx 11/18/2006, ILC, 5cm, Stage IV, Grade 2, 15/16 nodes, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 5, 2011 02:27PM vivre wrote:

have you ever heard of Dr. David Kelley? He was a dentist who got cancer and was told he had months to live (huge link with dental toxins and cancer). He decided to do some research, and to make a long story short, it died 40 years later and helped a lot of people with his protocol. His solution was nutrition, more specifically, digestive enzymes and using food as medicine for ones metabolic type. Dr. Gonzalez, in NYC now follows his protocol, and has continued to have great success. Of course, they are both accused of being quacks because they are not following the standard of care. Sad that alternative doctors who dedicate their lives to helping others are so vilified, when they are making such a difference for so many.

Late stage cancer needs to be treated as a chronic disease, like diabetes and heart disease. Like the other two killers, nutrition can give people many many healthy years. There is so much we can do to boost our immune system to attack cancer cells. Things like detoxing and reducing exposure to toxins as well as nutrition, exercise, and supplements can make a huge difference. Have you looked into mushroom compounds like AHCC? Asian doctors routinely use it to shrink tumors. I could go on and on. The bottom line is, there is no one magic bullet but it can be cured.

Do the research. Never ever believe that you do not have any say in this matter. Never give up or give in.

Dr. Severin has been living with stage 4 brain cancer for almost 20 years. Read his book, AntiCancer, for his inspiring plan. 

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Apr 5, 2011 03:37PM Lowrider54 wrote:

Of course, treatment will be life long and no there is no cure as the others have indicated.  There is, however, living.  I had chemo 12 years ago - I now have mets to the spine.  A patient is their own best advocate - if the treatment team isn't to your friend's liking - get another.  A big factor is the trust that the onc IS doing what is best.  One thing that has happened over the years is the bc patients are becoming so well informed and educated concerning their disease, often, they will make demands of their treatment teams and don't stop until they get what they want. 

Personally, I incorporate many things into my treatment - traditional treatments with anti-hormonals and bone strengtheners, anti anxiety and anti depressants with eastern medicine in acupunture to aid in pain management with the percocets, I see a ortho neurologist and have nerve and anti inflamitory meds and pratice light yoga and back muscle building exercises.  I have altered my eating to reduce over processed foods and gluten and added more fruits and veggies and supplements - in every case, all the people that treat me, have access to all my records so I don't fear things not working together or being contraindicated.  With this crap, you just can't go along with the 'herd', you need a voice and need to use it.  Like a call I am about to make - I want to change one of my treatment drugs to one that is less damaging to my kidneys and has shown to be more effective than the one I am doing now.  By not impacting my kidneys - I can potentially get more living out of my life for a longer period of time.  I want it.  Let you know how that goes.

I wish your friend the best!

LowRider

Smile...it will make people wonder what you are up to...Initial dx 04/99 - CMF; 9/2009 bone mets Arimidex; 6/2010 Faslodex/Xgeva; 8/2011; abdominal wall invaded, ER/PR flipped to TN, Abraxane/Avastin//Xgeva 09/02/2011; 11/2011Xeloda/Avastin/Xgeva.

Dx 9/16/2009, Stage IV, 5/25 nodes, mets, ER-/PR-, HER2-
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May 1, 2011 09:43AM, edited May 1, 2011 09:57AM by teachersally8467

Mrs. Sally C. Saroca-Pelingon, retired Master Teacher II, has joined our Creator on April 12, 2011 after living 67 years of life that's full of joy, love, happiness, and lots of success stories.  Her passing came after 8 years of living with breast cancer in what had been her 8 happiest years of life. She will always be remembered as the strong and smart woman, champion mother, master teacher, inspiring leader, and a proud cancer fighter that she had always been...

Certificate of Death:1. acute pulmonary failure,  2. pulmonary thromboembosis 3. breast cancer with pleural effusion & metastases.  University of the Philippines-Manila---Philippine General Hospital

Sally Saroca - Pelingon

Dx 12/14/2002, IDC, 5cm, Stage IIIb, Grade 3, 11/21 nodes, mets
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May 1, 2011 10:29AM debbie_58 wrote:

Hi Meggy

I have liver mets and possible lung - not been told officially yet. Anyway this is not about me. My friend has a cousin with brain tumours and one wrapped around the spinal cord and caused her face to partially paralyse. However after radiation her mets to stomach and lungs have gone and she also has been using her thoughts to tell the cancer to go away. Hey at this stage try any thing. According to Docs she shouldn't be here. So try a stressless life and positive thinking re telling cancer to take a walk. I am trying it and hope next CT scan reflects it. It is not curable, but boy it makes your life a whole lot more interesting and a whole lot harder for family and friends. Just support her and listen - I insist my friends listen to me as you need to talk about it. I guess not everyone is as open as me about things but I find it helps. I lost my sister 6 years ago to BC and did not cope but I really think it is far harder for the people not living it. Drugs are so much better in 6 years. Be strong for her. Hugs Deb

DebbieNZ

Dx 7/9/2010, IDC, 4cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, mets, ER-, HER2-
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May 1, 2011 10:30AM sincitydealer wrote:

I am very sorry to hear of Sally's passing.  What a cruel disease this is.  May her family and friends be comforted that she is out of pain and home with God.

Peggy

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May 1, 2011 11:09AM Leah_S wrote:

I am so saddened to hear the news about Sally. May G-d send comfort to her family and friends.

Leah

Dx 11/3/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 6/17 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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May 2, 2011 04:11PM sweetangel wrote:

Another MOM has been taken away by this naty disease......I am saddened to hear about Sally, it reminds me of my MOM who I just lost 2 yrs ago because of breast cancer....and now I am having the same fate as she did.....I hate this disease.......

I feel like I'm fighting a battle when I didn't start a war...

Dx 2/21/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage IV, Grade 1, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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May 2, 2011 09:22PM, edited May 2, 2011 09:24PM by Mel251954

Hi, I just got diagnosed a few days ago.  After 12 years of no cancer, it came back to lung and lymph nodes.  I am going to Moffitt, in Tampa, FL  tomorrow.  I am still in shock.  Only 3 days into being told It is stage 4, with no cure.  I feel stronger after  reading your posts.  Melanie in Sarasota

Melanie

Dx 4/28/2011, IDC, 1cm, Stage IV, mets
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May 2, 2011 09:47PM Alpal wrote:

Welcome, Melanie. You'll find we're a supportive and knowledgeble group! I know you must be in shock. It will get better - I promise. Please come here often, that will help! Read the thread about long term survivors.

Allison

Dx 7/2008, IDC, Stage IV, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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May 2, 2011 10:21PM justjudie wrote:

I am so saddened to read of Sally's passing. My deepeat condolences to her family and freinds. I wish whoever it was that let us know would have posted it on a new thread so everyone might see it.

Hi Melanie,

Welcome. Please be sure to post in a new thread....just start it yourself so that everyone will see it. Here you are sort of buried in someone else's thread and many people may not see it. i am sorry it came back. After 12 years you must have been sure you were in the clear. It is a big shock, I know. Please keep us posted on what your treatment plan will be. I wish you the best.

Judie

Judie

Dx 3/31/2010, IDC, Stage IV, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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May 4, 2011 09:22PM poohfan wrote:

nurse-ann, I am so sorry to hear you have not found an oncologist that you liked.  I did not like my second onc, I had to move away from the first, because of the military.  I found the 3rd which I liked until he go more into studies and misses elevated tumor markers.  I move in the same practice to a new onc.  SInce my daughter tested positve for the Brac2 gene she is also her oncologist.

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May 7, 2011 12:35PM marieibrahim wrote:

DEAR MEGGY

AN ONCOLOGIST ONCE SAID THAT WHAT MAY BE INCURABLE TODAY WILL BE CURABLE TOMORROW,SO WE SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE THAT FAITH AND CONTINUE THE FIGHT

LOVE

MARIE