What Is Metastatic Survivorship?
Last updated: June 2023
In recent years there have been tremendous advances in cancer treatment. Thanks to better treatments, many people with metastatic cancer are living longer.1
As of 2018, experts estimated that more than 600,000 people in the United States were living with the most common metastatic cancers. By 2025, the total number of people in the United States with metastatic cancer is expected to increase to more than 690,000. As of 2020, the number of people living with metastatic breast cancer was estimated at 168,000.2,3
What is cancer survivorship?
"Cancer survivorship" deals with treating the whole person. Survivorship care includes managing symptoms from cancer treatment. It also addresses the daily effects of living with cancer.4
Cancer survivorship addresses issues in the following areas:4
- Physical health
- Mental and emotional well-being
- Employment security
- Financial resources
- Social and caregiver support
What is metastatic survivorship?
Each person’s experience with cancer is different. Doctors often treat people with early-stage cancer with the goal of a cure.
People with cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic cancer) have unique needs. Treatment for metastatic cancer is often long-term. People living with metastatic cancer may have periods with or without active disease. This requires changing treatment plans over time.2,5
Metastatic survivorship needs are complex. Some unique needs of this group include:2,5
- Coordination of care with different healthcare providers
- Symptoms related to cancer metastases
- Long-term treatment
- Use of newer therapies with possible ongoing health effects
- Going on and off treatment over time
- Distress from the uncertain likelihood of recovery or recurrence
- Financial hardship
Living longer with metastatic breast cancer?
A commonly reported statistic is the 5-year survival rate. This number reflects the percentage of people with cancer who are alive 5 years after their diagnosis. Statistics like this predict trends for groups. Statistics cannot tell how long a specific person with metastatic cancer will live.6
Survival rates do not account for differences in:6
- General health
- Treatment response
- Recent advances in treatment
Women with metastatic breast cancer in the United States have a 5-year survival rate of 30 percent. For US men with metastatic breast cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 19 percent.6
Unmet needs for people with metastatic breast cancer
There has been progress in cancer treatment in recent years. But studies specifically about people with metastatic cancer are lacking. More research is needed to help the growing number of people living with metastatic breast cancer.2,5
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is raising awareness about metastatic survivorship needs. A 2021 NCI meeting highlighted the need for more research of this population.2,5
Topics for future metastatic survivorship research include:5
- Develop better estimates of how many people have metastatic cancer
- Study the symptoms experienced by people with metastatic cancer
- Create better ways to treat the whole person
- Improve communication about prognosis
- Address the needs of underserved and vulnerable groups
- Understand and support caregiver needs
- Address financial hardship
Metastatic survivorship research is needed to help the thousands of people living with metastatic cancer thrive. Studies must include the voices of people affected by metastatic cancer. This includes people living with metastatic cancer, as well as their family and caregivers.5
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.