There are many different treatment programmes for women with advanced breast cancer. The kind of treatment you undergo will depend on the nature of the disease, but is likely to include at least one of the following:
Treatment programmes for women with advanced breast cancer are primarily drug-related, but in some cases your treatment may also involve surgery and/or radiotherapy.
Although advanced or metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured, it may be kept under control for an extended period of time with certain drug regimes. Your oncologist may have to trial various drug combinations to find a programme that is most effective in controlling your cancer.
Decisions about treatment are very personal. You need to make sure you understand the pros and cons of all your treatment options. Make sure you discuss these carefully with your oncologist and take a support person along to your consultations to ask further questions and to take notes for you. Think carefully about your treatment options and don't make a rushed decision. Make sure you have all the information you need so that you're making the most informed decision possible.
You can read New Zealand's 2022 best practice guidelines for the treatment of advanced breast cancer here. To see the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) guidelines click here.
To learn more about treatments for different subtypes of advanced breast cancer, and how treatments available in New Zealand compare with international recommendations, read our article here.
More treatment options are needed to extend and improve the lives of New Zealanders with advanced breast cancer. You can find out more about these treatment options here.
Advanced breast cancer can result in many uncomfortable symptoms from either the disease or treatment. These can include:
nausea - from chemotherapy treatment
pain - as a result of the disease
fatigue - as a result of the disease and treatment
lack of appetite - due to all the changes in your body.
Remember many of these symptoms can be managed with further treatment, although they may not be entirely resolved.
If you are seriously questioning whether to continue with treatment, make sure you take time to think this over. Discuss this decision with your loved ones, your medical team and if possible with a counsellor or psychologist. A professional may be able to help you with this decision.
At some point, you may need palliative care. Hospice New Zealand has valuable information for those looking at this option.