Module 3. Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer
Best approach to living with metastatic breast cancer
Embracing care and living with metastatic breast cancer
Making healthy lifestyle changes
Healthy diet options
Healthy lifestyle: Exercise
Healthy lifestyle: emotional health
Your quality of life
Treatment and side effects
Complementary therapies
How long can I expect to live?
Healthy lifestyle: Other physical activity
Palliative care
End-of-life planning
Giving back and paying it forward
Your journey continues
Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer

*This slide show represents a visual interpretation and is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical advice.

Best approach to living with metastatic breast cancer

Uncertainty and loss of control are huge challenges for people with metastatic breast cancer.

You might cope by keeping your daily routine the same. Or, planning end-of-life issues might give you a sense of control. The best approach is one that works for you.

Embracing care and living with metastatic breast cancer

People live longer with metastatic breast cancer today than in the past because more and better treatments are available. Often, you and your doctor can manage it as a chronic, or long lasting, disease, focusing on treating the symptoms. Living well with metastatic breast cancer involves looking after your physical, emotional, spiritual, and social health.

Making healthy lifestyle changes

You might be tempted to use junk food, drugs, alcohol, or tobacco to deal with stress. But these are unhealthy habits. Replacing them with healthy ones can improve your health, energy, and quality of life.

Keeping a healthy weight is important for fighting metastatic breast cancer, but cancer and treatments can make you lose or gain weight, so talk to your doctor about the best options.

Healthy diet options

A healthy diet can help you feel good and function at your best. You might choose a plant-based diet or one with lean meat, dairy, and eggs. Talk to your doctor about your options. Aim for two and a half cups of fruits and vegetables per day, choose whole grains, and limit red and processed meats. Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women and two for men.

Healthy lifestyle: Exercise

Doctors once thought exercise was too tiring if you had cancer. Now we know avoiding physical activity makes you weaker and less fit, and less able to do what you want to enjoy life.

Regular exercise, such as walking or aerobics, can:

  • Reduce anxiety, depression, and fatigue,
  • Improve sleep, digestion, and immune system function,
  • Reduce pain, nausea, and vomiting,
  • Improve strength, flexibility, and balance,
  • Improve heart and lung function,
  • Control weight, and
  • Improve self-esteem.
Healthy lifestyle: emotional health

Having metastatic breast cancer raises concerns about physical health, finances, work, relationships and more. Talking with family and friends is a great way to handle your feelings, but you may need more.

A counselor can help you understand your moods and mental changes with metastatic breast cancer and other stressors. You can tell a counselor things you wouldn’t share with anyone else, and they can teach you coping skills. The picture shows some keys to emotional health. Ask your doctor about finding a counselor if you are sad, fearful, or stressed.

Your quality of life

Quality of life is how you feel physically and emotionally. A good quality of life is about living at your best, even with metastatic breast cancer. It includes what activities you can do and how you manage treatment, side effects, and daily life.

Treatment and side effects

Your treatments will probably change more than once when you have metastatic breast cancer. They may stop working or have side effects, like treatment for earlier cancers. Tell your doctor about any side effects so they can treat them.

Complementary therapies are used with conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments. They help manage symptoms and discomfort. Common complementary therapies include:

  • Massage, acupuncture and yoga,
  • Herbal remedies,
  • Healthy diet,
  • Physical or occupational therapy,
  • Meditation, counseling, and
  • Spiritual support, such as attending services and spending time in nature.

Ask your doctor if any of these might help. Always talk to your doctor before starting any complementary therapies.

How long can I expect to live?

Life expectancy is different for everyone with metastatic breast cancer. More people are living 5, 10, or more years with metastatic breast cancer due to medical advances.

The keys to living longer and well are:

  • A healthy, balanced diet,
  • Exercise,
  • Adequate sleep,
  • Spiritual well-being,
  • Receiving conventional and complementary therapies, and
  • Participating in clinical trials, if possible.
Healthy lifestyle: Other physical activity

Cancer and treatment can make you feel less attractive or sexual. Or you might be interested but feel physically tired or weak. Living well includes finding new ways to share sexuality. Feel free to talk to your doctor about your best options.

Palliative care is care designed to support someone with an illness. It includes helping you manage your symptoms, set goals that are appropriate for your health, and make the most of your life. You can have palliative care at any time when you have cancer. Talk to your doctor about care that helps support you.

End-of-life planning

We all will die one day. With metastatic breast cancer, we may be aware that we will likely die from this disease in the future. With time to plan, do these things:

  • Create a will and advance directive, so your loved ones know your wishes after you die.
  • Review your insurance policies. Check on who benefits from the insurance and give your documents to someone who can make sure your wishes are carried out.
  • Decide on burial, cremation, or another option. You may make arrangements for your memorial service.
  • Make peace with people you wronged or who wronged you. This can lighten your spiritual burden.
Giving back and paying it forward

Being of service to others can bring great joy. On the days you feel well, you can volunteer or help serve others. This helps take the focus off yourself and brings emotional healing.

Your journey continues

People with metastatic breast cancer are living longer with less discomfort. Through research, patients are finding new ways to cope with metastatic breast cancer as a lifelong disease. Having metastatic breast cancer is a new part of the cancer journey, but it may be a long and important one.

Slide Show - Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer

This slide show describes ways to live better with metastatic breast cancer, including looking after your physical, emotional, spiritual, and social health. You can learn about the benefits of healthy nutrition, regular exercise, counseling, complementary therapies and more, to help improve your quality of life and stay healthy during treatment. Every person’s circumstances are different. The best approach is the one that works for you.
Please rate this content:
Animation - Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer
1. Animation - Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer
Slide Show - Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer
2. Slide Show - Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Expert Videos

Can I live well with metastatic breast cancer?
3. Can I live well with metastatic breast cancer?
What should patients do if they have symptoms of metastatic breast cancer or are not feeling well?
4. What should patients do if they have symptoms of metastatic breast cancer or are not feeling well?
How can breast cancer treatment affect sex and intimacy?
5. How can breast cancer treatment affect sex and intimacy?

This educational activity has been developed by
American Breast Cancer Foundation and Mechanisms in Medicine Inc.

This activity is supported by an independent educational grant from Pfizer.

This website is part of the Animated Patient™ series developed by Mechanisms in Medicine Inc., to provide highly visual formats of learning for patients to improve their understanding, make informed decisions, and partner with their health care professionals for optimal outcomes.