Can you actually survive stage 4 breast cancer nowadays?


Thanks in advance for any advice or answers. 

Am sorry to trouble you but am confused about what i have read and what i have been told.

I have been told by a medical team  that advanced breast cancer can be loooked at just like a chronic illness in some circumstances

And I have also read recently that advanced breast cancer has an excellent survival rate,.

But what is excellent in these circumstances? I want to be positive but also realistic. 

I read tales where people are happy that either themselves, their friends or relatives made it to 5 years, which indeed is lovely.

And I know this may sound odd or maybe ungrateful but  Is this considered excellent?

I always thought with chronic illnesses you just lived a normal life span but carried on with treatment.

Has anyone ever made it to 10, 20, 30,or even 40 years?

  • Hi there Treehouse....I'm nearly at seven years...original diagnosis was very difficult. The breast cancer had spread throughout both lungs and liver before I even found a lump. It was so deep, and possibly soft, so I would never have found it.

    It hasn't been an easy journey, but I'm not dead yet!

    I know of someone else who managed ten years. But I would be surprised if there were statistics for the longer term survivors. Plus, the prognoses quoted to us are always old by their very nature - they have to be as old as the studies that produced them don't they? Have you ever read "The Median Isn't the Message" by Stephen J Gould? I have no idea of the facts, but his message was my inspiration from the start of my journey.

    So, I fully intend to be part of a band of people who are living with it rather than dying of it.

    I would be glad to chat about my own experiences if you like but I don't give advice as I am not qualified.

    Oh...and when people used to say, "Ooo but some people live for six years!" and they'd smile and hold my hand with those sad eyes, it was SO frustrating! Made me so bad tempered!! It was like being at a party where everyone else was being offered a slice of cake and all I was allowed was a crumb. A crumb is good yes but I want the whole slice! So, onwards and upwards and I'm aiming for the full slice! I was 44 when they found it, I'm now 51 with two young grandchildren and another on the way. So, who knows what the future holds? I certainly don't!

    Hope that helps x

  • Hi Mare

    Thankyou for replying, it really is appreciated.( although sorry at the same time that you are in this situation)

    I congratulate you on your attitude and hope your times ahead are as smooth as possible.

    I’ve not had any direct contact with anyone in the same situation so its beena bit difficult to decipher it all.

    I havent heard of the reading you mentioned but you can be sure i will be looking it up imminently!!

    You make a good point about the prognosis ,i think my concern is I am not totally sure the team are being straight up with me - they seem to be saying its like a chronic illness, whereas a lot of what ive read doesnt say this at all, and i do wonder if they are just sparing my feelings, which i feel  may be giving me false hope.x



  • I'm afraid I tackled it head on. It wasn't easy. I would be happy to chat privately about my experiences. And yes, I felt that way too. There were so many conflicting things that were said I didn't know what to believe.

    Honestly, my life has changed dramatically in the last 7 years, and for the better. There is so much more to life than the diagnosis isn't there?

    I have invented a few tricks to use whenever I think I'm being fobbed off, but usually I have to say that the medics do their best. And, although I am a terribly demanding and difficult patient, in the main my doctors and nurses have worked their socks off doing their best for me.

    I would love to thank them all because they're so terribly overworked!

    Please keep rested and be careful and gentle with yourself. There is so much rubbish on the internet and the statistics I found were never very helpful. And nothing on Google really applied to me- I used to make myself tired trawling through info for a shred of hope when in fact I had hope with me all along. In the end I used to ask my friends to do the research to save me the heartache.

    Speak to you soon,

    Mare x

  • Hi,

    Survival rates for breast cancer are fairly high in comparison to some other types of cancer. My own cancer has pretty lousy survival rates. These stats off the CRUK website may help ...

    Traditionally 5 years has been held up as statistically significant and as a result there's lots of stuff on the Internet about 5 year survival rates - the stats above cover 10 years too. 

    My oncologist told me that the longer people survive the more likely they are to survive a long time. This sounds illogical at first, but if you put all the patients on a graph, some die within 12 months of diagnosis, others within 5 years (if they survive the first year) but an awful lot who make it to five years are still around after ten years. I hope this makes sense.

    Best wishes


  • Hi Treehouse

    when my partner was diagnosed With Secondary Breast Cancer, I asked about longest survival rates. It was made clear that her cancer was Incurable and that “some people live as long as ten years”. It felt like this was the longest. We were devastated but focused on aiming for breaking records and quality of life. t that time itDr Google said that average survival rates were 2.5 years  

    I’m pleased to read that the other respondents is at seven years as I posted on the Macmillan site on the Secondary Breast Cancer page and no one could beat my partner's five and a half years  

    it certainly seems that positive attitude has an impact and perhaps the staff at your hospital are aiming to illicit this by their choice of language. When Debbie was told, we were given a leaflet which included a page about putting your affairs in order, it wasn’t until o asked direct questions that I found out that our lives had just been changed  

    I believe that by gaining knowledge you can impact your quality of life and survival rate. What type of cancer do you have? My Debbie has ER+HER2-. where are your secondaries? Debbie’s were originally in the sternum and spine  I’ve learnt that commonly what will actually kill her are things that go with the Cancer, infections or a collapsed spine leading to infections or getting pneumonia or a DVT. I try to watch out for these things without letting it take over.  


    It’s a lot to take in. But I agree,  get some advice, andtackle it head on. We got a specialist care nurse from our local hospice and her knowledge in dealing with symptoms and side effects has been fabulous. She’s also the best source for pain management. Myunderstanding is that at stage 4 you can apply for PIP without having to wait six months  a benefit worth £120 per week will open up some quality of life choices. (In the last year Debs has had three different chemo treatments and one targeted therapy, five hospital stays and also three foreign and two driving holidays in between those treatments).

    It’s a lot to take in but you can do it  


    Carer to partner with Secondary Breast Cancer

    Tumours In 21 locations and still enjoying life.  




  • HI Davek

    the link you’ve provided is very interesting but refers to Brest Cancer and you’re right survival rates for Breast Cancer are very good. My Mother In Law, for example lived for forty years after her diagnosis. (She sadly died within two months of her diagnosis with ovarian cancer).  

    Sadly, this post is about the very different animal; Secondary Breast Cancer. Average survival rates for this appear to be at 3.5 years according to one source I recently saw on the Internet. It appears to depend on what type of Breast Cancer the person has. It’s nearly always good to aim high and most of us, However we are effected by cancer are aiming for that. I hope you manage to be a record breaker for your own cancer and feel as well as you can. 


    Carer to partner with Secondary Breast Cancer  

  • Thanks again Mare

    I too, think i am going to quit the google thing now-its doing no good!

    Thankyou so much for your wisdom

    .....and may you, may we all, get the full slice xxxxxxx

  • Thanks for the clarification BryonyO x

  • I think the conclusion is then,nobody really knows with certainty,

    Thankyou all for your kind replies 

    I sincerely wish you all the very best for you and yours ,and love for reaching out.




  • Hi, I was dx with stage 4 bc in Feb 2008 & was given 18mths as it had spread to my skull, liver & abdominal lining. I've had various chemo, surgery & procedures & got to the 5yr stage when it came back in the liver. I've now been in remission for 2 years. I shall be celebrating my birthday shortly & 10yr cancer milestone. Never give up & take responsibility for your own treatment as it's your body.