Stage 4

Secondary Cancer

Women diagnosed and treated for secondary (metastatic) breast cancer face many of the same issues as those treated for early breast cancer. However, there can be a number of additional emotional, physical and practical challenges. Issues include managing symptoms of secondary breast cancer and its treatment, adjusting to living with secondary breast cancer and coping with concerns about facing an uncertain future.

Many women find that their diagnosis gives them a new perspective on life and makes them rethink what is important to them. For some women, the experience of being diagnosed and treated for secondary breast cancer provides opportunities they wouldn’t have considered before their diagnosis. It’s not always easy, but many women find that with time they are able to adjust to their diagnosis and get pleasure from the things that are important to them.

This section describes some of the physical, emotional and practical challenges faced by women for whom breast cancer has come back or spread to other parts of the body.

Emotions

The experience of being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer is very personal. Many women find the news that cancer has come back or spread more devastating than their original diagnosis.

Women diagnosed with secondary breast cancer often experience a whole range of emotions and feelings. Everyone has their own coping strategies, beliefs and strengths. Individual women and those close to them will find their own way to cope with the diagnosis. However it can be reassuring to know that other women with secondary breast cancer have experienced similar feelings.

Secondary breast cancer can also have a significant impact on partners, children, family and friends. They will probably find the journey difficult and may need support and advice about what they can do to help.

Symptoms

Secondary breast cancer affects different women in different ways. The symptoms experienced by individual women will vary according to which parts of the body are affected. Some symptoms may be the result of the cancer or its treatment. Others may be caused by other illnesses or medical conditions.

It’s important for women with secondary breast cancer to tell their doctor about any symptoms they are experiencing, or if symptoms get worse.

Support

Over time, women with secondary breast cancer may need help to do all the things they would normally do at home or at work. It can be difficult to come to terms with a loss of independence. However, accepting help and support can help women save their energy for the things that are important to them.

If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer it’s important to remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. Support and assistance is available through the healthcare team.

 
Useful Links:

Macmillan.org.uk – Why do cancers come back

Breast Cancer Care – Secondary metastatic breast cancer

Maggies Centres

Live Strong

Apa – Help chronic

Macmillan.org.uk – Coping with advanced cancer

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