A woman has a scan on top of her showing cancer in her breast and liver

What is Oligometastatic Breast Cancer?

Over the past few years, there has been a growing awareness of oligometastatic breast cancer (OMBC), along with more treatment options for this type of breast cancer. Although a cancer diagnosis is always disheartening, knowledge of this specific cancer brings a measure of hope to those with it. With the right treatment, people with OMBC cancer may live longer, better-quality lives.

What is oligometastatic breast cancer?

OMBC is a distinct form of metastatic breast cancer. Researchers first detected and defined OMBC in 1995. The number of cancer spots, the cancer cells’ genetic makeup, and the cancer’s progress set OMBC apart.1,2

In metastatic breast cancer, breast cells that have grown rampant and harmful spread to other parts of the body. The brain, bones, liver, and lungs are among the most common sites for the spread of cancer.1,2

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However, OMBC has no more than 5 deposits or clumps of cancer cells that are usually found in just 1 organ. Metastatic breast cancer with more than 5 deposits is known as polymetastatic breast cancer.1,2

What are the rates of oligometastatic breast cancer?

Doctors do not know the exact rate of oligometastatic breast cancer. Some believe that many new metastatic breast cancer cases may be OMBC.1

The American Cancer Society projects 279,100 new cases of breast cancer in the United States in 2020. About 99 percent of these cases are expected to occur in women. The other 1 percent of cases are expected to occur in men.3

According to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, 155,000 people in the United States have metastatic breast cancer today. About 6 percent of people with metastatic breast cancer had it when they first learned they had cancer. OMBC accounts for 14,000 cases of breast cancer in the United States each year.3,4

What are the treatments for oligometastatic breast cancer?

Distinguishing OMBC from other metastatic breast cancers is important. The treatments and results for OMBC differ from those for other metastatic breast cancers.

For many years, there was not enough data to determine the best treatment for OMBC. Doctors assessed radiation, surgery, and systemic drugs like chemotherapy that reach cells all over the body. Doctors saw promising results of radiotherapy confined to specific areas, but they still had many questions about OMBC. This lead to more research.1

A study published in 2018 showed that immunotherapy combined with radiotherapy brings about improved outcomes for more people with OMBC. The study even calls the ablative radiotherapy used to directly destroy the cancer cells a possible cure for OMBC.5

Doctors and researchers who are dedicated to helping people with OMBC continue to carry out new studies. They are searching for new treatment options that will get rid of OMBC and increase survival rates. They also want to develop treatments with less toxic side effects to improve the quality of life for people with OMBC.1,2,5

What are the outcomes for oligometastatic breast cancer?

Better outcomes and survival rates are key reasons that OMBC comes with hope. Studies are revealing better outcomes for OMBC than for other forms of metastatic breast cancer. Some studies show that people with OMBC survive longer than those with polymetastatic breast cancer.1,2

The American Cancer Society estimates that breast cancer will cause 42,690 deaths in the United States in 2020. Metastatic breast cancer causes 40,000 deaths in the United States each year.3,4

If you have received a diagnosis of OMBC, know that hope and help are close at hand. More targeted treatments exist today than when doctors first discovered and named this form of metastatic breast cancer. Your doctor can help you understand the treatment options, including open clinical trials and likely outcomes. This can help you and your doctor make an informed choice and move forward with the best treatment plan for your situation.

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