Breast Cancer - Metastatic: Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about how to cope with challenges in everyday life after a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

For many people with metastatic breast cancer, a good quality of life is possible for months or even years following diagnosis with extended long-term treatment. When there are effective treatments for metastatic cancer, your situation may be like someone with a chronic (long-term) disease. The cancer can be treated to keep it from worsening, but it generally cannot be cured.

Living with metastatic cancer is challenging. Each person with metastatic breast cancer has individual concerns and challenges. With any challenge, a good first step is being able to recognize your fears and talk about them. Effective coping requires:

  • Understanding the challenge you are facing

  • Thinking through solutions

  • Asking for and allowing the support of others

  • Feeling comfortable with the course of action you choose

Many people with metastatic cancer find it helpful to join an in-person support group or an online community. This allows you to talk with people who are experiencing similar first-hand experiences. Other options for finding support include talking with a friend or member of your health care team, individual counseling, or asking for assistance at the learning resource center of the place where you receive treatment. Read one woman's story about how she copes with this diagnosis.

Monitoring your health

During treatment, your health care team will continue to check to make sure the cancer has not worsened, manage any side effects, and monitor your overall health. This may include regular physical examinations, blood tests, or imaging tests. The types of tests you receive depend on several factors, including your current health and the types of treatment given.

The anticipation before having a test or waiting for test results can add stress to you or a family member. This is sometimes called “scanxiety.” Learn more about how to cope with this type of stress.

Staying as healthy as possible

People with metastatic breast cancer are encouraged to follow established guidelines for good health, such as not smoking, limiting alcohol, eating well, and managing stress. In addition, it is important to have recommended medical checkups and tests to take care of your health.

Regular physical activity can help with your strength and energy levels. Your health care team can help you create an appropriate exercise plan based upon your needs, physical abilities, and fitness level. Cancer rehabilitation may be recommended, and this could mean any of a wide range of services, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, career counseling, pain management, nutritional planning, and/or emotional counseling. The goal of rehabilitation is to help people regain control over many aspects of their lives and remain as independent as possible. Learn more about cancer rehabilitation.

The next section offers Questions to Ask the Health Care Team to help start conversations with your cancer care team. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.