Skip to content


We know that you don’t want to have to learn about this, but the more educated you are about the topic, the more empowered you are to make decisions that are right for you.  Being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer does not mean that there is no hope. Many women can live with metastatic breast cancer for years.  We want you to be equipped with as much knowledge as possible.

Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread beyond breast tissue and the surrounding lymph nodes to form tumors in other parts of the body such as bones, brain, liver, and lungs.

Metastatic breast cancer is also known as Stage IV or advanced breast cancer. Stage IV breast cancer is diagnosed in about 6-10% of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.  Individuals with an initial diagnosis of Stage IV breast cancer have an average 5-year survival rate of 26%. That said, many people live for years or even decades with Stage IV breast cancer with a good quality of life; it is estimated that approximately 155,000 people in the United States are currently living with metastatic breast cancer.

While many young women can live a long time with the disease, it is important to note that no one knows how long an individual can live with metastatic breast cancer, so it is important to make treatment decisions that consider quality of life.  About 20 to 30% of all breast cancers that are originally localized within the breast become metastatic.

This Glossary of Terms will help you understand these important things about metastatic breast cancer in order to understand your diagnosis and make treatment decisions.

This program is brought to you through generous support from

Be Your Own Best Advocate

Be Empowered


Being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer can be a daunting experience, but realize that you are not alone. Through MY LIFE Stories, we hope to inspire young women to see that as challenging as this experience might be, there are others like you, who are using their time in a powerful way. Read the MY LIFE Stories below.




Wish Upon a Wedding is a nonprofit organization granting weddings and vow renewals for couples facing serious illness or a life-altering circumstance.


Learn more about our MY LIFE Partners

If you serve young women in the metastatic community and want to partner with us, please email

The Tough Stuff

Because there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, there will be a time when treatments are not successful or you decide to stop treatment because of severe side effects.  Think about what kind of medical care you want to have at the end of your life and who you would like to make decisions about your medical care if you are not able to.

A Living Will is a document that lists your choices for medical care such as if you want machines to keep your kidneys and lungs functioning, if you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops beating, if you want to receive nourishment through a feeding tube if you aren’t able to swallow foods, and if you want to withhold food or fluids.

A Medical Power of Attorney is a document that lets you list whom you would like to make decisions about your medical care if you are not able to.  Once you have prepared and signed a Living Will and/or a Medical Power of Attorney, make copies and give them to your family members and your medical team.  Make a few extra copies for your medical records folder.

When or if you decide to stop treatment, you will still receive palliative care to help reduce your pain and maintain a good quality of life. Hospice care provides support to you and your family at the end of your life.  The goal of hospice is to make your quality of life the best it can be in the time that you have left.  Hospice care can be provided at your home, at a hospice facility, or in a hospital.  Clergy, counselors, home health aides, nurses, and social workers often work together to provide hospice care.

You may decide to preplan or even prepay your funeral or memorial service. Some details to consider are what kind of service, any particular music or hymns, and your preferences in terms of your physical remains (cremation, burial location, donating your body to the medical community).  Write your wishes down and save them either on paper or electronically for your loved ones. 

Saying “See you later” to Friends and Family

So, this is the part that no one likes to talk about.

Life is a wonderful blessing, and at Tigerlily Foundation, we like to believe that it never ends. We believe that we transition from a physical to a spiritual form and that we can be with our loved ones in a different way. So, transitioning can be looked at as a “see you later” and a new beginning.  There are a lot of unknowns, and it isn’t easy to say goodbye for you or your loved ones.  So, here is an approach: 1) Live your life now like you never have before – be open, vulnerable, live out loud, love as wide as you can; 2) Make a bucket list and DO IT; 3) Make a list of your favorite memories with your parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and special friends and share your thoughts with them either in writing or by recording video messages to them.  4) If you have children, consider recording advice for them for the future. Tell them how much you love them.  5) If you enjoy scrapbooking, put together a photo book for loved ones of your favorite holidays, travels, or other good times together.

Also, before the time comes, begin a dialogue with your family, including your children about what they are thinking and feeling.  Explore the option of adopting a pet or planting a tree together, so they can nurture it and watch it grow. Leaving your family with happy, living reminders is a great way they can feel close to you, or to help them soften the fear of you “leaving them”.

Celebrating Life

It is challenging not to brood about the past or worry about the future, but as much as possible, try to be present and live in the moment.  Consider keeping a gratitude journal and taking time to savor the “little” things in life, like a beautiful sunrise, the ritual of brewing tea, and the changing colors of the seasons. Make time for favorite hobbies and visits with cherished family and friends.   Enjoy every breath. Put your hand on your heart – hold it there and “feel” your heart beat.  Take in every sight and sound.  Enjoy the touch – of heat and cold, hugs, kisses, textures – take it all in. Above all, say all that needs to be said.  Laugh. Do it all. Live.