Stage 4 is the most severe stage of cancer, with the highest risk of mortality. However, many factors affect a person’s life expectancy, including the type of cancer. For prostate cancer, for instance, the 5-year life expectancy is 32%, but for pancreatic cancer it is 3%.
In this article, we describe what stage 4 cancer is and the survival rates for people with different types of cancer at this stage. We also look into forms of support available for people with cancer and their loved ones.
Stage 4 cancer is not always terminal. It is usually advanced and requires more aggressive treatment.
Terminal cancer refers to cancer that is not curable and eventually results in death. Some may refer to it as end stage cancer. If a doctor determines that cancer is terminal, this
Survival rates convey the likelihood of living for a certain period, such as 5 years, after a doctor diagnoses cancer. The 5-year survival rate for people with breast cancer that has spread to distant areas of the body is
The same figure for people with prostate cancer that has spread to distant areas is
Survival rates can vary, based on the type of cancer. The 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma that has spread to distant areas is
It is worth noting, however, that these rates are based on large quantities of data obtained in the past. They may not reflect recent advances in treatment and care. Also, a wide range of factors influence each person’s life expectancy.
Determining the severity of cancer and its stage is a complex process. Doctors are still learning about all the factors that affect how cancer develops and affects the body. Predicting life expectancy is very difficult. The doctor will consider
Learn more about how doctors determine the stages of cancer.
Doctors usually describe a person’s outlook using the 5-year survival rate. These are calculated based on data from thousands of other people with a similar cancer at a similar stage.
The original location of the cancer determines its type. Survival rates vary, depending on the type of cancer and how far it has spread within the body.
Below, we describe the survival rates for some of the most common forms of cancer in stage 4:
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States. In 2018, there were 254,744 new cases of breast cancer among females in the country.
The American Cancer Society estimate that the 5-year survival rate for people with breast cancer that has spread to distant areas of the body is
There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell and non-small cell.
According to the American Cancer Society, the average 5-year survival rate for people with non-small cell lung cancer that has spread to distant areas is
However, it is important to note that these figures do not reflect recent advances in treatment.
Colorectal cancer affects the colon or rectal areas and is generally treatable in its early stages. Around
The American Cancer Society reports that the 5-year survival rate for colorectal cancer that has spread to distant areas is
Prostate cancer is the
The treatment plan for stage 4 cancer depends on the type and how far it has spread. Some treatments aim to improve the person’s quality of life and control their symptoms. Others aim to stop the cancer’s growth.
Treatments at this stage might
- chemotherapy, though the risks may be too high when the cancer has spread extensively
- radiation therapy, which can shrink tumors and help with symptoms
- immunotherapy, which helps the body’s immune system fight the cancer
- surgery to remove tumors
- targeted therapy, which aims to slow tumor growth
Stage 4 is the most severe stage of cancer. Metastatic cancer is another name for this stage. It conveys that the cancer has metastasized — spread to distant areas of the body.
Cancer is a group of diseases that cause rapid cell growth. Cancerous cells grow and reproduce uncontrollably in a certain area of the body, forming a tumor. As a tumor grows, the cancerous cells can spread to other areas of the body.
Doctors typically use a
A range of tests can help determine the stage of cancer. They include:
Doctors take other factors into account, too, including:
- the size of the primary tumor
- its location
- whether cancerous cells have entered the lymph nodes
- how far these cells have spread within the body
- the type of cancerous cells
- the person’s overall health
Together, this information helps determine whether cancer is less advanced, at stage 1, very advanced, at stage 4, or somewhere in between.
Cancer can take an enormous emotional and physical toll. In the U.S. and other countries, many sources of support are available for a person with cancer and their family and friends.
Big organizations such as the
- information centers
- residential options during treatment
- transportation between treatment locations
- products related to hair loss and mastectomies
- a range of support groups
They also provide online networks and apps for people with cancer, caregivers, and loved ones.
The National Cancer Institute has
Learn more about coping with a cancer diagnosis and finding dedicated support here.
Stage 4 is the most severe stage of cancer, but it is not always terminal. Doctors use a wide range of factors to classify cancer’s stage, including the size and locations of tumors and the person’s overall health.
Generally, the likelihood of long-term survival decreases as cancer spreads farther from its point of origin. But many personal factors can affect a person’s outlook. While survival rates are a guide, a person’s medical team can provide a clearer picture of the overall outlook.