Living with ABC is a challenging journey for women. Staying informed and connected help patients to understand and better manage the burden. The treatment goal in ABC is to control the disease, preventing progression for as long as possible, while maintaining the best possible quality of life.
In situations where advanced (Stage IV) cancers have spread to other parts of the body, it’s important to remember that surgery and/or radiation may be useful but systemic therapy is the main course of treatment. Depending on the individual circumstances of the patient, this may encompass several different kinds of therapy, used in combination, to help shrink the tumours, relieve symptoms and improve the patient’s chance of living longer. Although treatment at this advanced stage isn’t able to cure the cancer, the availability of modern treatment options are helping to improve the lifespan and quality of life for women with ABC.
Treatment for ABC differs depending on the stage of the cancer. For early advanced breast cancer (Stage 3) treatment can be of a shorter duration (a few months). For metastatic (Stage 4) cancers, treatment is life-long.
Treatment helps to prevent the disease from progressing further, impeding tumour growth, and helps to relieve symptoms so that patients can maintain a good quality of life.
How much time does the patient have ?
Each case is different, and while doctors may refer to statistics, bear in mind that these are based on generalised calculations involving large patient groups. Even survival rates should be considered objectively, especially as advancements in cancer treatment have led to significant improvements in recent years.
How will doctors know if the treatment is working ?
Various imaging tests such as Computed Tomography (CT) scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), bone or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans, help doctors to monitor changes in the size of the tumour and track the cancer metastases.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy help destroy cancer cells but they can also affect healthy cells, leading to side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue, mouth soreness, hair loss, weight gain, and diarrhoea. In the case of targeted therapies, they may have different and sometimes less severe side effects. However, each patient’s experience of treatment is unique.