Surgery and radiation therapy are commonly used to treat early-stage breast cancer, but their value for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer (cancer which has spread to other parts of the body) is not well known. Women with metastatic breast cancer typically receive chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or other medication, and surgery is used only if the breast tumor becomes too large or causes symptoms.
In this study, researchers want to assess the value of treating the intact primary breast tumor with “local” therapy (surgery and radiation) in addition to standard chemotherapy and other medications used for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Following an initial course of standard chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or other medication, patients who have a good response to treatment will be randomly assigned to receive surgery and radiation therapy for the breast tumor, or to continue with medical treatment (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and/or other medication). Patients in the medication group who are not responding well to treatment will have the option of receiving surgery and/or radiation for the breast tumor if their doctors feel they need it.