Secondary breast cancer: difficult choices and decisions at the end of life

It’s not possible to predict someone’s life expectancy accurately after a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer. However, more and more people are living longer with the disease. 

For some people the cancer becomes like a chronic illness – it doesn’t affect their day-to-day lives very much and they deal with problems as they arise.

For others life is more challenging, with constant rounds of treatment needed to control their disease and its symptoms.

Whatever your situation, you'll need to come to terms with the fact that you may not live as long as you might have done if the breast cancer hadn’t spread.

Whether you have months or years left to live you'll almost certainly think about your death from time to time.

Many people are frightened more by the process of dying than by the thought of death itself. This is often linked to fears about loss of dignity and not being in control. Understanding how your symptoms can be effectively controlled and being aware of the support that will be available to you towards the end of your life can help take away some of the fear.

Once you begin to consider these issues, however difficult they are, it may be easier to think about what you will leave behind and how things will be after your death.

There is no right or wrong way to deal with these fears. People may choose to consider the issues when they are diagnosed, delay thinking and talking about them or decide not to think or talk about them at all.

Last reviewed: December 2015
Next planned review begins 2017

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Please note that we cannot respond to comments. If you have any questions about breast cancer please contact the Helpline on 0808 800 6000.