Symptoms Of Metastatic Cancer
Metastatic cancer does not always cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, what they are like and how often you have them will depend on the size and location of the metastatic tumors. Some common signs of metastatic cancer include:
- pain and fractures, when cancer has spread to the bone
- headache, seizures, or dizziness, when cancer has spread to the brain
- shortness of breath, when cancer has spread to the lung
- jaundice or swelling in the belly, when cancer has spread to the liver
What To Know About Breast Cancer Growth
Breast cancer occurs when normal cells mutate and multiply faster than usual. One cell divides to become two cells, then each of those cells divides to become four cells, and so on. The uncontrolled multiplication of cancer cells creates tumors within the breast tissue.
The speed at which a cancer progresses depends on the growth rate of the cancer cells. It is hard to estimate cancer growth because not all cancer cells multiply and divide at the same speed.
In most cases, breast cancer initially develops in either the milk ducts or the lobules, which are the glands that produce milk, before expanding into the breast tissue.
Breast cancer that develops in ducts or lobules can spread to the connective tissue. From there, it can spread to the surrounding lymph nodes.
Once in the lymph nodes, the cancer cells can enter the lymphatic system or the bloodstream, where they can move to other areas of the body.
Integrative Therapies For Metastatic Breast Cancer
You may find it beneficial to add integrative therapies to your treatment plan. There are many evidence-informed integrative modalities to boost the mind and body. Practices like gentle yoga, meditation, massage and music therapy may feel enjoyable and reduce stress and anxiety levels.
To help our patients maintain quality of life after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, our team of breast cancer experts may offer supportive care services to help manage side effects of the disease and its treatments. These may include:
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How Is Breast Cancer Recurrence Managed Or Treated
Your treatment depends on the type of cancer recurrence, as well as past treatments. If cancer develops in a reconstructed breast, your surgeon may want to remove the breast implant or skin flap.
Treatments for local and regional breast cancer recurrence may include:
- Mastectomy: Your surgeon removes the affected breast and sometimes lymph nodes.
- Chemotherapy:Chemotherapy circulates in blood, killing cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy:Tamoxifen and other hormone therapies treat cancers that thrive on estrogen .
- Immunotherapy:Immunotherapy engages your bodys immune system to fight cancer.
- Radiation therapy: High-energy X-ray beams damage and destroy cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: Treatments target specific cancer cell genes or proteins.
Ways To Tell If Your Treatment Plan Is Working
During chemotherapy treatment, your doctor will order regular scans and blood work to monitor your treatment progress.
Imaging is used in standardized testing called RECIST, which stands for “response evaluation criteria in solid tumors.” RECIST is used with solid tumors to assign scores to how the patient is responding to treatment. They take scans to monitor the tumor’s size and spread to other parts of the body.
The doctors then classify the tumor’s response to treatment as:
- Complete response : The tumor has completely disappeared from the scans.
- Partial response : The tumor has shrunk by 30% or more from before treatment.
- Stable disease : The tumor doesn’t fall into any of the other categories cancer has not grown or shrunk during treatment.
- Progressive disease : The tumor has grown by 20%, or more or more tumors have developed.
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There Are More Than 55000 New Breast Cancer Diagnoses Each Year In The Uk
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Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells and stop tumours from growing but a new study suggests it could in fact help the disease spread, leading to more aggressive forms of cancer.
While the treatment was found to shrink tumours in the short term, chemotherapy drugs increase the chance that cancer cells will migrate to elsewhere in the body and may trigger a repair system which allows them to grow back stronger, according to a team of US researchers.
Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York examined the impact of chemotherapy on breast cancer patients.
If Your Breast Cancer Has Spread
Even if your breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body, it does not necessarily mean its not treatable. If the cancer cannot be removed, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms, improve quality of life and extend survival.
Some women live with breast cancer for several years as they learn to adjust and accept that theyll be on treatment for an indefinite period of time, explains Dr. Roesch. Your cancer team will help you learn and cope with what you can expect on this journey.
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What Are The Complications Of Breast Cancer Recurrence
Breast cancer that comes back can be harder to treat. The same therapy isnt always effective again. Tumors can develop a tolerance to certain treatments like chemotherapy. Your healthcare provider will try other therapies. You may be able to try drugs under development in clinical trials.
If breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, your healthcare providers still treat it like breast cancer. For instance, breast cancer cells that move to the lungs cause breast cancer in the lungs not lung cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is more difficult to treat than cancer in only one part of the body.
Where In The Body Does Breast Cancer Spread
In theory, breast cancer can spread to any part of the body, but it most commonly spreads to the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bones and sometimes the brain. Keep in mind though, that even if your breast cancer spreads to other areas of your body, its still considered breast cancer. For example, if breast cancer spreads to your lungs, it does not mean that you now have lung cancer too.
If your breast cancer has moved to other parts of your body, you might experience symptoms relating to the area it has spread to, but not always.
Here Dr. Roesch explains how metastatic breast cancer can affect different parts of the body:
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Where Is Chemotherapy Given
Unless youre having chemotherapy as tablets, youll normally be given your treatment at hospital as an outpatient or day case. This means youll be able to go home on the same day.
You may be at the hospital for a short time only. However, because of tests, waiting times and how long it takes to prepare and give the chemotherapy drugs, some people are there for most of the day. You may be asked to have blood tests a few days before you have your chemotherapy.
You might find it helpful to take things to help pass the time as well as snacks and drinks. You may be able to take someone to go with you to keep you company. Talk to your chemotherapy nurse to find out if this is possible.
In some areas chemotherapy may be given in a mobile treatment centre or in your home.
With some types of chemotherapy you may be given your first treatment as an inpatient and may need to stay in hospital overnight.
What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer also called stage IV is breast cancer that has spread toanother part of the body, most commonly the bones, lungs, brain, or liver.
The process of cancer spreading is called metastasis. Metastasis happens when cancer cells break away from the original tumor in the breast and travel to other parts of the body. These cancer cells travel through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system .
Breast cancer can come back in another part of the body months or years after the original diagnosis and treatment. This is called metastatic recurrence or distant recurrence. Nearly 30% of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer develop metastatic disease. Because there are so few cases of male breast cancer, it’s not clear how many of these breast cancers metastasize, but men are also diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
When the first diagnosis of breast cancer is metastatic, it is called de novo metastatic breast cancer. This means that by the time the breast cancer is first detected, it has already spread to another part of the body.
Metastatic breast cancer is made up of cells from the original tumor that developed in the breast. So if breast cancer spreads to the bone, the metastatic tumor in the bone is made up of breast cancer cells, not bone cancer cells.
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How Will I Know If My Breast Cancer Spreads
Your doctor will use specific kinds of tests to find out if your cancer has gone to other places in your body. First, your doctor will want to know how youâre feeling. They will ask you about any symptoms youâre having and your overall health. They might also look at the size of your tumor and check your lymph nodes.
After that, the doctor may give you:
Blood tests. They look for signs of anything abnormal thatâs happening in your body. For example, results from a liver function test can let your doctor know that breast cancer may have gone to your liver. High levels of some substances in your blood hint that the cancer has spread to your bones.
Imaging scans. These tests make detailed pictures of the inside of your body. They help your doctor pinpoint any cancer spread. These tests include:
- PET scan
- Bone scan
Biopsy. Your doctor removes a small amount of tissue from your body and looks at it under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells in it.
Does Chemotherapy Cause Cancer To Spread
Earlier this month, a study was published in Science Translational Medicine that showed how chemotherapy before surgery can stimulate breast cancer invasiveness and invasion under certain circumstances. Not surprisingly, alternative cancer cure mavens everywhere are spinning the study as proof that chemotherapy has no benefit and causes only harm . Unsurprisingly, the actual results are far more nuanced. They do not demonstrate that chemotherapy is ineffective but rather point the way forward to improving chemotherapy regimens.
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Tumors Backfire On Chemotherapy
- Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
- Chemotherapy is an effective treatment for breast cancer, yet some patients develop metastasis in spite of it. Researchers have now discovered that chemotherapy-treated mammary tumors produce small vesicles that may help them spread to other organs.
Some patients with breast cancer receive chemotherapy before the tumor is removed with surgery. This approach, called ‘neoadjuvant’ therapy, helps to reduce the size of the tumor to facilitate breast-conserving surgery, and can even eradicate the tumor, leaving few or no cancerous cells for the surgeon to remove. In those cases, the patients are very likely to remain cancer-free for life after surgery.
But not all tumors shrink under chemotherapy. If the tumor resists neoadjuvant therapy, there can be a higher risk of developing metastatic disease, meaning that the tumor will recur in other organs, such as bones or lungs. This could be due to cancerous cells that resist chemotherapy and spread to other organs while the primary tumor is being treated.
After being released from a chemotherapy-treated tumor, the exosomes circulate in the blood. Upon reaching the lung, the exosomes release their content, including annexin-A6. This stimulates the lung cells to release another protein, CCL2, which attracts immune cells called monocytes.
Materials provided by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
How Chemotherapy Is Used To Treat Cancer
Before I get to the study, in order to help readers not familiar with how chemotherapy is used to treat cancer, I feel obligated to provide a brief primer. There are four main ways that chemotherapy is used to treat cancer:
Curative: Chemotherapy can be the primary treatment for cancer. This is common in hematological malignancies, like leukemia and lymphomas, where its usually some combination of chemotherapy ± radiation therapy that is curative. Surgery is rarely indicated. The intent here is to use chemotherapy to eliminate cancer from the body.
Adjuvant chemotherapy:After definitive surgical treatment of the primary cancer, chemotherapy is administered to decrease the chance of recurrence. This is a very common use of chemotherapy, particularly in breast cancer and colorectal cancer. Indeed, the use of adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer since the 1980s, among other factors, has contributed to a .
Palliative chemotherapy: In stage IV disease, chemotherapy is often used to palliate symptoms from growing tumors and can prolong life, although not result in long term survival. This is also a common use of chemotherapy.
Keep these things in mind as I discuss the study.
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How Long Can Chemo Take To Work
Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles over a period of weeks, months, or even years. Your exact timeline will depend on the type of cancer you have, the kinds of chemotherapy drugs used, and how the cancer responds to those drugs.
Other factors that affect your personal timeline include:
- stage at diagnosis
- previous cancer treatments, as cancer often responds best the first time and some treatments are too harsh to be repeated
- other potential treatment options
- age and overall health, including other medical conditions
- how well youre coping with side effects
Along the way, the timeline may have to be adjusted due to:
- low blood counts
- adverse effects to major organs
- severe side effects
Depending on your particular circumstances, chemotherapy may be given before, after, or in conjunction with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and targeted therapies.
Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs that may be given intravenously or by mouth. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in most parts of the body. Sometimes, if cancer spreads to the spinal fluid, which surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord, chemo may be given directly into in this area .
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What Is Metastatic Cancer
Cancer that spreads from where it started to a distant part of the body is called metastatic cancer. For many types of cancer, it is also called stage IV cancer. The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis.
When observed under a microscope and tested in other ways, metastatic cancer cells have features like that of the primary cancer and not like the cells in the place where the metastatic cancer is found. This is how doctors can tell that it is cancer that has spread from another part of the body.
Metastatic cancer has the same name as the primary cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung is called metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as stage IV breast cancer, not as lung cancer.
Sometimes when people are diagnosed with metastatic cancer, doctors cannot tell where it started. This type of cancer is called cancer of unknown primary origin, or CUP. See the Carcinoma of Unknown Primary page for more information.
How Does Chemotherapy Treat Cancer
In treating cancer, chemotherapy is the use of drugs that kill fast-growing cells. These are non-discriminatory killersthey kill any fast-growing cells in the body, not just cancer cells.
Traditional or standard chemotherapy treats cancer by interfering with cancer cells ability to grow and divide. The drugs do so by disrupting their cycle of cell division.
Cell division is when the cells make copies of their chromosomes and split into two. Many molecules, proteins, and genes work together to divide the cell into two, so there are many ways to disrupt this cycle.
In many cases, these drugs are applied to the entire body, called systemic treatment. Systemic chemotherapy can kill cancer cells that have already spread that doctors havent found yet. But it can also cause widespread side effects, affecting your digestive tract, immune system, hair, skin, and nails.
Doctors use chemotherapy to treat cancer in three ways:
- Cure cancer: Kill as much as possible, so it goes away and doesnt come back
- Control cancer: Shrink the tumors or stop them from growing and spreading
- Slow cancer: Slow the growth of cancers and reduce their symptoms
Chemotherapy drugs can be administered either through a tube that delivers liquid medicine into the blood or in pill form.
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Does Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy Spread Cancer
So lets take a look at the study itself , which was published in a Science journal, Science Translational Medicine by a group at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Reading the abstract, I quickly realizedsurprise! surprise!that the findings were considerably more nuanced and interesting than Adams, Wark, and Jaxen presented. I also quickly realized that the purpose of the study was to identify potential problems with how neoadjuvant works in order to find strategies to make it work better. Of course, doing research to make existing therapies better is complex, and the authors noted that increasing tumor cell dissemination could diminish the clinical benefit of neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Note the distinction. It is knownsorry, couldnt resist a Game of Thrones reference given that as I write this the season seven premiere is only a few hours awayfrom numerous studies that neoadjuvant chemotherapy produces a survival advantage for breast cancer patients in addition to the advantages it produces in making inoperable tumors operable or making it possible for women who would otherwise lose their breast to preserve it. Tumor cell dissemination as a result of chemotherapy reduces, not eliminates, that benefit, and it certainly does not make cancer spread in such a way that neoadjuvant chemotherapy is worse than no chemotherapy. Yet thats what the cancer quacks strongly imply.