Breast cancer can spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body, such as the bones, brain, liver, or lungs. This is called advanced breast cancer (ABC). Other names include metastatic or stage IV breast cancer. Even if the disease is found in other organs, it is still considered and treated as breast cancer.
Most cases of ABC are not considered curable. Instead, it is treated like a chronic illness. The goal of care is to prolong life and maintain the patient’s quality of life. With emerging therapies and treatments, many patients with ABC can live well for years.
ABC patients at MD Anderson are cared for by a team of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and other support staff. They work together to provide comprehensive, coordinated treatment, including the most advanced treatments available.
In addition, MD Anderson physicians lead multiple clinical trials for ABC. Many of these trials cannot be found anywhere else. Clinic team members will help patients monitor these trials and identify ones that could benefit each patient most. When a suitable trial is found, the team will navigate the patient through the application process. This includes helping the patient apply to the trial, answering questions about the proposed treatment, transitioning the patient onto the trial and coordinating care between different teams.
ABC Clinic care
A nurse practitioner with the ABC Clinic can be part of the care team. These nurse practicioners guide patients through the MD Anderson system and provide:
- Clinical trials education
- Genetic and genomic testing education and referrals
- Discussion on patient treatment-related goals and milestones
- Assistance coordinating care between departments
- Emotional support
- Support accessing additional MD Anderson resources
To schedule an appointment with a nurse practitioner in the ABC Clinic, you must be a patient at MD Anderson. Ask your MD Anderson care team to submit an appointment request or contact us at ABCProgram@mdanderson.org.
ABC Program services
ABC Clinic patients also have access to services provided by the ABC Program. The program links ABC patients to the vast resources of MD Anderson that help patients improve their health and quality of life.
The program maintains the ABC Clinical Trials Registry and offers clinical trial education.
The ABC program also offers health care assessments and referrals for services across MD Anderson, such as:
- Internal medicine care, including treatment for patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis; treatment side effects and more. The LIMBS Clinic (Linking Internal Medicine to metastatic Breast cancer patients for Success) is available to all ABC program patients, whether they are in active treatment or not.
- Integrative medicine services, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture and oncology massage
- Supportive care
- Rehabilitation medicine
- Fatigue management
- Bone Health Clinic
- Specialized care for patients with brain metastases through the Andrew M. McDougall Brain Metastasis Clinic
Patient support & education
Education and support programs dedicated to ABC patients are also available. These programs can be one-on-one or for groups of people with a similar diagnosis. They include:
The ABC Support Group
This group offers a safe place to connect, share feelings and learn coping strategies with other patients with ABC. The support group is open to patients with ABC, regardless of where they receive treatment. To participate, please RSVP to the ABC Program at ABCProgram@mdanderson.org.
myCancerConnection offers free, one-on-one support to patients, caregivers and survivors, regardless of where they receive treatment.
The ABCs of Healthy Living in Challenging Times: Recorded Weekly Webinar
This multidisciplinary weekly series focuses on topics such as side effect management, cancer research, supportive care, end of life care, patient care services, treatment updates, healthy lifestyle programs, and more. Each session includes a Q&A session. The webinars are open to patients, regardless of where they are being treated, as well as caregivers, faculty, staff, and community members.
Advanced Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
The Breast Center business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
713-792-2360 (Current patients)
877-632-6789 (New patients)
The world of cancer is scary, complex and lonely. [The ABC Program] is here to help make it better, a little less scary, a little less lonely and a lot more hopeful.”