Where Can Breast Cancer Spread
The most common places for breast cancer to spread to are the lymph nodes, bone, liver, lungs and brain. The symptoms you may experience will depend on where in the body the cancer has spread to. You might not have all of the symptoms mentioned here.
Remember other conditions can cause these symptoms. They dont necessarily mean that you have cancer that has spread. But if you have symptoms that you are worried about, discuss them with your GP, cancer specialist, or breast care nurse so that you can be checked.
Will My Breast Cancer Spread To My Bones
A diagnosis of breast cancer triggers a cascade of worries. Am I going to die? is surely the most terrifying. A close second for many patients is fear of pain, particularly if cancer metastasizes to the bones. Bone mets can cause agonizing pain in several ways. A sudden break in a weakened bone can bring unexpected pain, and tumor growth affects nerves in and around the bone.
Many breast cancer patients are concerned about developing bone mets, especially since bone is a location that BCa cells commonly spread to. One way that researchers calculate this likelihood is by pooling data from previously published work. The more the studies, the more reliable the statistical results.
A 2017 literature review identified 156 breast cancer studies in which a percentage of women in each were diagnosed with bone mets either at the start of the study or during follow-upi. Here are key points:
- 58% of patients who were initially diagnosed as already having metastatic disease had bone mets. It is not surprising that more than half of women whose BCa has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes at the time they are diagnosed already have bone mets, since bone is a preferred breast cancer location for spread.
- Of patients who developed metastatic disease to any location during follow-up, an average of just over half had bone mets. This, too, is not unexpected again because of the preferential spread to bone.
I Have To Prioritize And Try Not To Sweat The Small Stuff
For Sendelbach, each week begins with a list of her priorities. Obviously, getting to my doctors appointments is very important, she says. But if the clothes arent folded, is that a dire situation? Absolutely not!
Sendelbach has learned to make compromises: If her husband and son have to pick up their clean clothes from the couch, she can live with that.
I have learned, she says, to look at every situation and ask if this is going to truly make a difference in my day or my familys day for better or worse. If the answer is no, then that task might be left undone.
It wasnt always this way for Sendelbach, though. When she was first diagnosed with cancer, her son was just a year old and she had been married for only two and a half years. You know how it is when you first have a baby if everything isnt perfect, then the world is falling apart! she laughs. Now, to us we ate, were all still alive, the house is acceptable if were good, its all okay.
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How Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosed
If you have symptoms of metastatic breast cancer, your provider may recommend tests including:
- Blood tests, including complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic panel.
- Imaging studies, including MRI, CT, bone scan and PET.
- Bronchoscopy, which uses a scope to look inside your lungs this can be done if there is a concerning spot in the lungs.
- Biopsy to remove tissue from a suspicious area and analyze it.
- A tap to remove fluid from an area with symptoms. For example, pleural tap removes fluid from the lung area. Spinal tap removes fluid from the spinal cord area.
Diagnosing Metastatic Breast Cancer
Getting a clear picture of where breast cancer has spread is essential for creating a personalized treatment plan. Your care team will likely use a combination of the following tests and tools to diagnose both localized and advanced breast cancer:
Ultrasound exam: With this imaging technique, sound waves create a picture of internal areas of the body.
Magnetic resonance imaging : This procedure produces detailed images using magnetic fields and radio waves.
Blood chemistry studies: A blood sample is taken to measure the amounts of certain substances that are released by your organs and tissues. A higher or lower amount of a particular substance may be a sign of disease.
Breast biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of cells or tissues so a pathologist may view them through a microscope. Your original breast cancer diagnosis was likely confirmed with a biopsy.
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What Are Signs Of Breast Cancer Other Than Lumps
Other symptoms besides a lump that warn of breast cancer include:
- a nipple that turns inward
- redness, scaling, or thickening of the nipple.
- a change in the texture of the skin on the breast.
- clear or bloody discharge from the nipple, or a milky discharge if you’re not breastfeeding.
- dimpled skin on the breast.
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In The Bones
Although metastatic breast cancer can potentially occur in any bone in the body, it most often affects the ribs, spine, pelvis and long bones in the arms and legs. Breast cancer that has spread to the bones may cause:
- Sudden bone pain, such as hip or back pain, which may feel similar to the discomfort associated with arthritis or exercise strain but is persistent or progressively worse even with rest or conservative measures
- An increased risk of bone fractures that result from minimal trauma, such as a minor fall
- An elevated level of calcium in the blood, which can lead to fatigue, nausea, dehydration and loss of appetite
- Numbness or muscle weakness in an arm or leg
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When To See A Doctor/go To The Hospital
If any symptom that comes up feels like a medical emergency or seems life-threatening, it is important to seek medical help immediately.
Symptoms that develop gradually and are persistent, without any improvement, should be discussed with your healthcare provider, so that a quick evaluation of the cause of the symptom can be discovered.
What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer In Bones
Metastasis describes the spread of cancer from where it started to another part of the body. This happens when cancer cells break from the primary tumor and enter the lymph system or bloodstream. From there, they can travel throughout the body and form new tumors.
Metastatic breast cancer in bones is not the same as bone cancer. Its made up of breast cells, not bone cells. Its also called stage 4 or advanced breast cancer.
A 2019 research review showed that bone is the most common site of breast cancer metastasis. Breastcancer.org says that for more than half of women with metastatic breast cancer, bones are the first site of metastasis. The bones most likely to be affected are:
- long bones in your arms and legs
Other common sites of breast cancer metastasis include your liver and lungs.
Signs and symptoms vary depending on where the cancer has spread and how big the tumors are.
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What Can I Expect While Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Your care team will monitor you every few months to check if the cancer is responding to treatment, and also to see if you are having any side effects. The process of restaging the cancer includes:
- History/physical exam.
- Imaging tests, including CTs and bone scan or PET scan.
Before your scans or tests, its normal to feel anxiety. It may help to bring a friend or family member to the appointment with you.
What Are The Symptoms Of Bone Metastasis In Breast Cancer
All three doctors say that new, progressive pain in your bones or joints is the most common symptom of metastatic breast cancer in bones. “I always tell patients to inform me if there’s pain that’s not getting better,” says Dr. Tsarwhas. This can sometimes be confused with arthritis or other pre-existing chronic pain issues, he says, which is why it’s important for breast cancer patients to be proactive about any new pain they encounter.
New fractures or unexplained fractures can also be a sign of bone metastasis, Dr. Tsarwhas adds. Cancer can weaken bones and make them break more easily. “New lumps or bumps in the lymph node area…could be a sign of recurrent breast cancer as well,” he says.
A person with metastatic breast cancer in their bones may also experience more general cancer symptoms, such as fatigue, lack of appetite, and extreme, unexplained weight loss.
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Getting Back On Track: How Bone Metastases Are Treated
Oncologists have a range of tools that can help alleviate the pain and discomfort of bone metastases as well as treat the cancer itself, including:
Other ways to effectively manage pain and discomfort from bone metastases include using hot and cold compresses practicing relaxation methods like meditation, physical therapy, or yoga and doing other gentle forms of exercise. Ask your health care team about programs that can help keep you safely active. Strong muscles protect bones, stresses Huston, and being active makes you feel better both physically and psychologically.
Treatment Options For Metastatic Breast Cancer
Treatment for metastatic breast cancer often is based on systemic therapies, which use drugs rather than surgery or radiation. Metastases treatments are designed to shrink tumors and slow their growth, help ease symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment may change, such as when one therapy stops working, or the side effects become too uncomfortable. Rather than having only one treatment, most patients undergo several treatments combined to help fight the cancer.
The four broad categories of drug-based treatments are:
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How Effective Are Treatments For Bone Metastases
Although current treatments for bone metastases are unable to completely remove all cancer cells, many women with bone metastases can live for many years with extremely good quality of life.
The effect of bone metastasis on your prognosis is individual and depends on what type of cancer you have, where it has spread to and how you respond to various treatments. The main aim of any treatment is to control pain and other symptoms so you can enjoy your day-to- day activities as much as possible.
What Is A Metastasis
Metastasis is a word that describes the spread of cancer from its original site to another part of the body. Metastasis happens when cells break away from the original cancer site and travel to other areas of the body through the bloodstream or the lymph system. Cancer cells then settle in different tissues or organs, where they grow and form a new tumour . When breast cancer is found in parts of the body other than the breast it is called metastatic breast cancer.
A bone metastasis from breast cancer is made up of breast cancer cells. Bone is one of the most common places for breast cancer to spread.
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Common Sites Of Metastasis
- All less common sites: 22.4%
Invasive lobular carcinoma tends to have a significantly different pattern of metastases than ductal breast cancer. In one 2017 study, almost 70% of people with metastases from lobular carcinoma had peritoneal metastases.
For roughly a third of women , cancer spreads to multiple organs at the same time.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between Muscle Pain And Bone Pain
Bone pain usually feels deeper, sharper, and more intense than muscle pain. Muscle pain also feels more generalized throughout the body and tends to ease within a day or two, while bone pain is more focused and lasts longer. Bone pain is also less common than joint or muscle pain, and should always be taken seriously.
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Too Much Calcium In The Blood
Too much calcium in the blood can cause symptoms such as:
- Passing large amounts of urine
Hypercalcaemia is a medical emergency and can be serious if not diagnosed quickly. Its important to know who to report these symptoms to if they occur, so check this with your treatment team.
To relieve symptoms you might be told to drink plenty of water. However, many people will need to be given fluids into a vein to help flush the calcium out of the body.
If youre not already having bone-strengthening drugs, your treatment team will prescribe these.
Eating foods that contain calcium or taking prescribed calcium supplements does not cause hypercalcaemia.
What Does The Beginning Of Bone Cancer Feel Like
In many cases, bone pain is the first sign that cancer has spread to the bones. If youre living with cancer and you start to experience bone pain, get it checked out.
If the bone cancer is pressing on the spinal cord, you may also experience nerve problems. This can cause difficulties with movement and mobility. It may also affect bladder and bowel function. If you experience these symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Its best to catch bone mets early to help prevent or slow the spread to the bones. You may have regular blood work to monitor red blood cell levels and blood calcium levels. Low red blood cell count or high blood calcium levels can be early signs of bone metastases.
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Risks Of Metastasis In The Bones
Over half of stage 4 breast cancer patients experience bone metastasis, according to breastcancer.org. Usually the first place breast cancer spreads, bones most commonly affected include the ribs, spine, pelvis, and arm and leg bones. If you suspect cancer has spread to a bone, its important to get it checked out quickly, as you may be able to prevent fractures with prompt treatment.
Symptoms Of Metastatic Breast Cancer
The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer may be different than those of early-stage breast cancer, but not always. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all.
You should always speak with your doctor if you experience any new signs or symptoms, but here are some of the most common signs that breast cancer has spread:
- Bone pain or bone fractures due to tumor cells spreading to the bones or spinal cord
- Headaches or dizziness when cancer has spread to the brain
- Shortness of breath or chest pain, caused by lung cancer
- Jaundice or stomach swelling
The symptoms of breast cancer metastasis may also vary depending on where in the body the cancer has spread. For example:
- If the breast or chest wall is affected, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
- If the cancer has spread to bones, symptoms may include pain, fractures or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
- If the cancer has spread to the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain or fatigue.
- If the cancer has spread to the liver, symptoms may include nausea, fatigue, swelling of the feet and hands or yellowing skin.
- If cancer has spread to the central nervous system, which includes the brain or spinal cord, symptoms may include pain, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with and/or movement or seizures.
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Can Breast Cancer Cause Tender Pain In The Ribs And In The Area Below The Collar Bone
Hi,Welcome back. Actually, breast cancer would ONLY cause pain in the ribs as well as tenderness when it has actually spread to the bones, this is a very late stage of cancer and usually, this would NOT be the first symptom of breast cancer. before this symptom actually occurs, a patient would invariably experience a lump in the breast or changes in the skin of the breast, severe weight loss, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes in the armpit or in other regions of the body, swollen abdomen, and severe generalized body aches.
So while breast cancer can certainly cause pain in the ribs as well as tenderness, that would be a symptom which appears very late in the course of the disease and if it appears then it is a given that the patient WOULD have the other symptoms I talked about above. Tenderness in the ribs would NOT be the initial presenting symptom of breast cancer at all.
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How Is Metastasis Of Breast Cancer Diagnosed
Diagnoses of metastatic breast cancer are made in two different scenarios:
1. Recurrence. This happens months or years after an initial diagnosis was made and treated.
2. De novo. It accounts for about 6% of breast cancers in the United States and refers to cancers that were only discovered after they had already spread.
Diagnoses are made using the following test procedures.
1. Positron Emission Tomography Scan . Cancerous cells have a great affinity for sugars. In a PET scan, a radioactive sugar gets injected into the blood which gets used up by these cells much higher than healthy cells.
All the parts of the body shown in a subsequent scan where the radioactive sugar is found to be concentrated and metabolized are suspicious for cancer.
2. Computed Tomography scan .This shows Images of the internal parts of your body from a computer connected to an X-ray machine. Dyes could be injected into the body for clarity. It could be done with a PET scan.
3. Ultrasound scan.
This machine utilizes sound waves to hunt for tumors in parts of your body like the abdominal cavity and breasts. Its often used in addition to 3-D digital breast tomosynthesis.
4. Bone scan. Involves the injection of radioactive substances in the blood that could map out areas of possible breast cancer metastasis in the bone and are detectable in scanners.
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