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.
Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Be Cured
There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. Once the cancer cells have spread to another distant area of the body, its impossible to get rid of them all. However, the right treatment plan can help extend your life and improve its quality.
Metastatic breast cancer treatment aims to shrink tumors, slow their growth and improve your symptoms.
How Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Treated
The main treatment for metastatic breast cancer is systemic therapy. These therapies treat the entire body. Systemic treatments may include a combination of:
Your care team will plan your treatment based on:
- Body parts cancer has reached.
- Past breast cancer treatments.
- Tumor biology, or how the cancer cells look and behave.
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Advanced Cancer That Progresses During Treatment
Treatment for advanced breast cancer can often shrink the cancer or slow its growth , but after a time, it tends to stop working. Further treatment options at this point depend on several factors, including previous treatments, where the cancer is located, a woman’s menopause status, general health, desire to continue getting treatment, and whether the hormone receptor status and HER2 status have changed on the cancer cells.
Our Advice To Other Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer: Be Nice To Yourself
Give yourself a break! is the advice that Sendelbach offers. Stop negative self-talk about what you should have done but didnt do, she says. If you have MBC, you need to be kind and loving to yourself.
The body has only so much energy to offer per day, and managing metastatic breast cancer requires a lot of it. So it doesnt make sense to try to compare what youre able to do with what your cancer-free friends are accomplishing.
Just getting through the day can be hard, Sendelbach says. Getting rid of those not good enough feelings can lift a huge weight off you.
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Coping With Advanced Breast Cancer
Being told that you have advanced or metastatic breast cancer may be very confronting or overwhelming. Some women also find the news that their cancer has spread or come back is more devastating than their original diagnosis.
There are many resources available online to help you further understand the meaning of your diagnosis and how to manage the emotional, physical and practical issues arising from metastatic breast cancer. Below are some links where these resources can be accessed:
Connecting and speaking with others who have gone through a similar experience can also be helpful. Cancer Council runs support groups all across Australia which can provide support and information for people with cancer and their families. Groups in each state can be accessed here:
Although support groups can provide a safe place for people to express their feelings amongst others who share a similar experience, some people are more comfortable talking one-on-one, such as with a counsellor, therapist or trained volunteer . Your GP can also refer you to a psychologist, social worker or other trained therapist. Every person is different and it is important to find a healthy support system that works for you.
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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Stomach Upset Loss Of Appetite And Weight Loss
It can be more difficult to eat a healthy diet as these symptoms occur, setting up a vicious cycle. As women avoid certain foods because of stomach upset, the digestive system may lack the fiber and nutrients it needs to function optimally.
Over time, women may lose their appetite and have difficulty taking in the calories they need. Not eating regularly may cause significant weight loss and nutritional imbalances.
Stages Of Breast Cancer: Stage Iiic
Stage IIIc breast cancers basically involve tumors of any size with significant metastases to:-
- the lymph nodes behind the sternum
- lymph nodes under the arm
- the lymph nodes above or below the collarbone
The extent and depth of lymph node involvement make these patients unsuitable candidates for surgical treatment as a primary mode of therapy. Chemotherapy is the treatment of choice for women with stage IIIb and IIIc breast cancers.
However, up to 70% of patients with stage III breast cancers who have chemotherapy remain alive and disease-free after 7 years.
Also Check: What Is Stage 3a Breast Cancer
Treatments For Breast Cancer Metastasis To Liver
When you get the news that breast cancer metastasis to liver is incurable you may go through a range of emotions. When breast cancer is only in the breast tissue or the lymph nodes in your armpit a cure is highly possible. Once cancer spreads beyond those areas, it is no longer curable. However, you can still receive treatment to slow the progression of the cancer.
Doctors usually focus treatment on extending life and increasing the quality in which you live. When determining treatment, they look at the following:
- Your past treatments
- How the cancer cells look
- Extent of metastasis
- Hormone receptor sensitivity
If your cancer cells are positive for hormone receptor sensitivity, they can give you hormone therapy treatments to trick the cancer cells into dying.
They can also do more rounds of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink any tumors and slow their growth. These treatments may also help reduce your symptoms. New symptoms may develop from side-effects of the treatments.
The side-effects of treatments include nausea, vomiting, anemia, loss of appetite, weight loss, and lowered immune response. Side-effects are treatable in order to continue aggressive therapy.
Response to Treatment
To combat this from happening, doctors will monitor the response to treatments. If resistance occurs, they can switch drugs. They can also head this off by switching drugs in the very beginning of treatment for metastasis.
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.
Its great for the detection of bone and brain metastasis.
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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.
Stage Ii Breast Cancer
There are basically four sub-categories of breast cancer within the category of stage II. Breast tumors in the Stage II classification are:
- A breast tumor that is 2cm in diameter or less. BUT the cancer cells have already spread to the lymph nodes.
- OR a breast tumor that is larger than 5 cm but has not yet spread to the lymph nodes.
- OR breast tumors in between 2 cm and 5 cm in diameter -whether there is evidence of spread to the lymph nodes or not.
There are actually quite a number of specific subcategories and letters and numbers to indicate a more precise description of the breast cancer at Stage II. .
In summary, stage II breast cancer is of intermediate size and threatening to spread. Without a doubt, staging for stage II breast cancers requires a thorough investigation of potential metastases.
Survival Rates for Stage II Breast Cancer
The average survival rate for stage II breast cancers is about 93% after five years and about 75% after 10 years. The rate of local recurrence is about 16% for stage II breast tumors. Furthermore, only about 16% of stage II breast cancers either have or will develop lymph node metastasis.
A baseline bone scan is unlikely to detect bone metastasis with stage 2 tumors, but they are usually necessary just to be sure.
Treatment for Stage II Breast Cancer
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Breast Discomfort And Pain
Women may feel discomfort and pain as the cancer grows and spreads in the breast. Cancer cells do not cause pain but as they grow they cause pressure or damage to surrounding tissue. A large tumor can grow into or invade the skin and cause painful sores or ulcers. It can also spread into the chest muscles and ribs causing obvious pain.
What I Wish People Knew About Metastatic Breast Cancer
Women with metastatic breast cancer think about fighting cancer very differently than women who don’t have a stage 4 diagnosis. If you have advanced cancer, these women understand what youre going through.
The term metastatic breast cancer describes breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to the bones, liver, brain, or another organ. Even if the cancer is found in another organ, its still referred to as breast cancer and is treated as such.
While metastatic breast cancer is terminal and cannot be cured, because of improved treatments more women are living longer than ever with it. Even so, a lack of information and many misconceptions about this diagnosis persist.
Also Check: Estrogen Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer
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 don’t 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.
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.
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Why Cancer Cells Tend To Spread To The Parts Of The Body They Do
Where a cancer starts is linked to where it will spread. Most cancer cells that break free from the primary tumor are carried in the blood or lymph system until they get trapped in the next downstream organ or set of lymph nodes. This explains why breast cancer often spreads to underarm lymph nodes, but rarely to lymph nodes in the belly. Likewise, there are many cancers that commonly spread to the lungs. This is because the heart pumps blood from the rest of the body through the lungs blood vessels before sending it elsewhere.
Investigations For Stages Of Breast Cancer
The following procedures may be necessary to check for metastasis:-
- bone scan
- MRI scan
- blood tests
So, after a breast cancer diagnosis, while in general, the outlook is favorable , it should really be considered a chronic condition.
But the progression is not going to be the same for everyone, even for patients with similar stages of breast cancer presentation. It is SO important to remember that each case is individual. Indeed breast cancer has been known to return even 20 years after a mastectomy, whilst in others, the progression and systemic development of the disease may be rapid.
Are you considering having NO treatment?
Anxiety, fear, panic, anger and sadness are all common emotions following a breast cancer diagnosis. If you are in the middle of a combination of these feelings, today is not a good day to make important decisions.
Here is my quick imagine a way this all gets better line of reasoning, to help you. Firstly, treatments are so effective nowadays and very well organized. Cancer research and treatments are improving all the time and the people who treat breast cancer are experienced experts.
Give the team some trust and time to explain things properly and accept the treatments. Do one step at a time, one day at a time, and you will be amazed at the results.
Add onto that the following self-help methods:-
- lots of sleep
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Life Expectancy And Causes Of Death
Statistics from the National library of medicine show that the spread of tumor cells to other parts of the body, otherwise called metastasis is the leading cause of death in patients with breast cancer. It accounts for about 42% of deaths.
Patients with metastatic breast cancer could live up to 5 years post prognosis. The median survival range is 2-4years.
Research has shown Caucasians have longer survival than non-Caucasians. The extent of weight loss prior to treatment adversely affects survival whereas patients with metastasis to the bones thrive longer than those with metastases to other organs.
The response to treatment directly correlates with survival but patients with other health problems or who had had prior extensive radiotherapy were found to have shorter survival.
Stages Of Breast Cancer: Stage Iiib
A stage IIIb breast cancer is one in which the tumor may be of any size but it has grown into the chest wall or the skin of the breast. A stage IIIb designation also applies if there is evidence of either
- axillary lymph node metastasis
- internal mammary node metastasis
presenting in such a way as to suggest that total surgical removal is not possible.
There is a unique type of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, that causes the breast to appear red and swollen. This is because the cancer cells block some of the lymphatic vessels. Inflammatory breast cancers tend to have a poorer prognosis and are generally stage IIIb at least.
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What Investigations Are Necessary For Staging Breast Cancer
Breast cancer staging almost always involves a bone scan, as breast cancer is highly prone to metastasize to the bones.
During this test, medics inject a small amount of a radioactive substance into the bloodstream, where it eventually collects in the bones. A radiation scanner is then able to detect accumulations of tracer substance in the bones.
If breast cancer spreads beyond the breast, 25% of the time it goes into bones first.