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How Can You Tell If Breast Cancer Has Metastasized

Too Much Calcium In The Blood

Metastatic Breast Cancer – You Have Metastatic Disease. Now What?

Too much calcium in the blood can cause symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Passing large amounts of urine
  • Weakness
  • Confusion

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.

Myth #: People With Metastatic Breast Cancer Have A Short Amount Of Time Left

While some people mistakenly think MBC is curable, at the other extreme are those who assume its an immediate death sentence. But there is a big difference between stage IV incurable cancer, which MBC is, and terminal cancer, which can no longer be treated. A person isnt automatically terminal when she or he gets a metastatic diagnosis. Although MBC almost certainly will shorten someones life, it often can be managed for years at a time.

As Illimae of Houston points out: Stage IV is not an immediate death sentence. It feels that way at first but many have months/years of reasonably decent condition. Brain mets are not necessarily the end either. When found early and treated, especially with minimal disease in the body, life can resume to a fairly normal state.

Mermaid007 adds: hen I was diagnosed with bone mets I felt I needed to go home and get my affairs in order when here I am 4 and half years later.

What Is Secondary Breast Cancer In The Bone

When cancer that started in the breast has spread to the bones, its called secondary or metastatic breast cancer in the bone.

Some people also refer to it as bone metastases or bone mets.

The bones most commonly affected are the:

  • Spine
  • Pelvis
  • Upper bones of the arms and legs

The cells that have spread to the bone are breast cancer cells. Its not the same as having cancer that starts in the bone.

Breast cancer cells can spread to the bone through the lymphatic system or the blood.

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You May Not Know Im Sick By Looking At Me

I may look perfectly healthy, but Im sick, says Silberman. Treatment is hard. I sleep a lot. I still travel, but its difficult. I just visited a friend in Utah for four days, and it wore me out for two weeks.

Just because someone doesnt look like she has advanced-stage cancer, she can be very sick. It can be an invisible illness, says Silberman. You tell somebody you have cancer, but if you have hair, sometimes they dont believe you.

What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer

How to Treat Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastasis is the process by which cancer cells spread. In the case of metastatic breast cancer, the cancer originated in breast tissue, then spread to other parts of the body.

Metastatic cancer is further described as local, regional or distant, depending on the location of the cancer cells in relation to the original tumor.

  • Localized metastatic breast cancer often means the breast cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • The more distant locations include the bones, lungs, skin, liver and brain, although its possible for other parts of the body to be affected.

Its important to remember that every cancer is unique and that your experience may not necessarily be the same as that of another breast cancer patient. With a personalized treatment plan, metastatic breast cancer is typically treatable. A recent National Cancer Institute study found that the number of U.S. women living longer with distant metastatic breast cancer is growing, thanks to advances in treatments.

Its also important to prepare yourself with information about the disease, its symptoms and how its detected and treated.

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Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer

Diagnosis is the process of finding out the cause of a health problem. Diagnosing breast cancer usually begins when you find a lump in your breast or a screening mammography suggests a problem with the breast. Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you have and do a physical exam. Based on this information, your doctor may refer you to a specialist or order tests to check for breast cancer or other health problems.

The process of diagnosis may seem long and frustrating. Its normal to worry, but try to remember that other health conditions can cause similar symptoms as breast cancer. Its important for the healthcare team to rule out other reasons for a health problem before making a diagnosis of breast cancer.

The following tests are usually used to rule out or diagnose breast cancer. Many of the same tests used to diagnose cancer are used to find out the stage . Your doctor may also order other tests to check your general health and to help plan your treatment.

How Often Does It Happen And Why

Metavivor, an organization dedicated to researching MBC, states that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Of those, about 1 in 3 will experience metastasis.

For men, about 1 out of 1,000 will develop breast cancer during their life, but under 2% will experience metastasis.

The liver is the third most common area that MBC affects. Researchers are still not certain exactly how breast cancer spreads to the liver.

The current hypothesis indicates that it spreads to the liver when the cancer cells and liver are compatible. This is known as the seed and soil hypothesis.

research from 2015 , the exact mechanics of how breast cancer spreads to the liver are still not known.

However, in one 2019 study, researchers found that a few distinguishing factors may place a person at higher risk of developing liver metastasis. These include:

  • age
  • number of lymph node metastases
  • tumor size

Earlier or more frequent screening for liver metastasis may help improve outlook because a doctor may find the tumor sooner.

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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.

If The Diagnosis Is Metastatic Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Metastasis, When Can It Happen?

Although metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured today, it can be treated.

Modern treatments continue to improve survival for people with metastatic breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN . All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at . Se habla español.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each others experiences and build strong relationships in order to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for Komen Breast Cancer group to request to join the closed group.

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Diagnosis Of Lung Metastasis

To perform diagnostic tests for lung cancer metastasis, the healthcare provider will employ the help of a pulmonologist, a thoracic surgeon, or a radiologist. These specialists diagnose and treat lung conditions. Tests that may be performed to diagnose lung metastasis include:

  • Examination of a mucus sample under a microscope
  • A lung tissue biopsy
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Lung needle biopsy
  • Surgery

When the healthcare provider removes tissue from the lung, there are two primary goals, which are:

  • Determining if breast cancer is in the suspicious area of the lung
  • Testing the tissue to discover its characteristics that may impact treatment choices : The hormone receptor status is associated with how hormones influence the tumor growth. HER2 proteins are found on the surface of the cell and provide information on the tumors biology and aggressiveness. This knowledge can impact which type of treatment is selected.
  • Note, its important to keep in mind that metastatic breast cancer isnt always identical to the original breast cancer.

    What Is Advanced Cancer

    Advanced cancer is most often used to describe cancers that cannot be cured. This means cancers that wont totally go away and stay away completely with treatment. However, some types of advanced cancer can be controlled over a long period of time and are thought of as an ongoing illness.

    Even if advanced cancer cant be cured, treatment can sometimes:

    • Shrink the cancer
    • Help relieve symptoms
    • Help you live longer

    For some people, the cancer may already be advanced when they first learn they have the disease. For others, the cancer may not become advanced until years after it was first diagnosed.

    Advanced cancers can be locally advanced or metastatic.

    Locally advanced means that cancer has grown outside the body part it started in but has not yet spread to other parts of the body. For example, some cancers that start in the brain may be considered advanced because of their large size or closeness to important organs or blood vessels. This can make them life-threatening even though they havent spread to other parts of the body. But other locally advanced cancers, such as some prostate cancers, may be cured.

    Metastatic cancers have spread from where they started to other parts of the body. Cancers that have spread are often thought of as advanced when they cant be cured or controlled with treatment. Not all metastatic cancers are advanced cancers. Some cancers, such as testicular cancer, can spread to other parts of the body and still be very curable.

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    Clinical Trials Are A Promising Treatment Option

    For people with advanced stages of cancer, clinical trials can be considered the gold standard of treatment. I recommend clinical trials highly, says Rosen. You get access to medication and treatment that you normally wouldnt have.

    A clinical trial could even have positive results on your cancer. We are living in an exciting time for cancer treatment, says Kimmick. There are myriad new drugs coming out that will improve the lives of all women with breast cancer, both metastatic and early stage.

    However, its important to be realistic about the potential outcome of your trial. Rosen was recently enrolled in a clinical trial in which the medication proved toxic for her. But she has no regrets about participating. It feels like Im helping researchers who are working on cures for cancer, she says. When I had a bad reaction to the drug, they were able to put my side effects in their study. I feel like I did help, and that makes me happy.

    People interested in joining a clinical trial for treatment should talk to their doctor about options that might be good for them.

    Tell Your Doctor Whats On Your Mind

    Infographic: Breast Cancer

    Itâs important for your doctor to know where youâre coming from, Suh says, especially if you donât share the same racial, cultural, or ethnic background.

    In a respectful way, you can:

    • Talk about your values and beliefs. Discuss any complementary or alternative medicine choices youâd like to try. Tell your doctor if you have fears about traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. Give them a chance to explain why they want you to try one treatment over another.
    • Name your feelings. When emotion is high, Ko says, it can be hard to process what your doctor is telling you. Tell them if youâre afraid, scared, or mad. It may be easier to communicate if they know your state of mind.
    • Bring up racial bias. Itâs OK to discuss issues around race. Feel free to open up about negative health care experiences that you or your loved ones have had in the past. âIf someone says, âMy mother died of cancer and the doctors were horrible. They let her die in pain,ââ Silber says, âthatâs something I need to know.â

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    Myths And Misconceptions About Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Some people tend to think that breast cancer is breast cancer, regardless of stage at diagnosis. In the media, breast cancer is often portrayed as a relatively good type of cancer that can be overcome with the right combination of treatments.

    But as our Community at in our stage IV discussion forum tell us again and again, stage IV, or metastatic, breast cancer cancer that has spread beyond the breast into other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, or brain is very different from early-stage breast cancer. They often need to educate family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers about this reality. What follows are nine of the most common myths and misconceptions about metastatic breast cancer.

    Myth #: Metastatic Breast Cancer Requires More Aggressive Treatment Than Earlier

    Related to myth #3 is the notion that because MBC is advanced cancer, doctors have to pull out all the stops to fight it. But thats actually not the case, says professional advisory board member Sameer Gupta, MD, a medical oncologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. The goal is control rather than cure. Think of it as a marathon vs. a 50-yard dash.

    Doctors treat earlier-stage breast cancer more aggressively because the goal is to cure it: destroy all of the cancer cells and leave none behind, reducing the risk of recurrence as much as possible. With MBC, the goal is control so that patients can live well for as long as possible. And chemotherapy isnt necessarily the mainstay of treatment.

    DivineMrsM of Ohio shares her experience: eople in general think we should be hooked up to a chemo IV and looking sickly. When I told one woman I took a daily anti-estrogen pill to combat MBC, she looked at me with pity and sadness like I had no clue what I was talking about. Or that I was making up that I had advanced breast cancer, perhaps as a sympathy ploy or for attention. She even asked, Arent you on chemo? And I worked with this woman for a number of years, she was not a stranger!

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    There Are Treatment Options For Metastatic Breast Cancer The Options Depend Upon The Type Of Breast Cancer And The Womans Age But In General They May Include:

    • Hormone therapy
    • Targeted therapy/drugs
    • Immunotherapy

    Radiation therapy and/or surgery may also be used to remove or shrink tumors that are blocking blood vessels, pressing on the spinal cord, are small enough to make removal practical or to provide relief of pain or other symptoms.

    Metastatic breast cancer treatment focuses on the whole body. When one treatment stops working, another one is used. This allows for long-term cancer control for many patients

    For more specific and in-depth information about metastatic breast cancer, please open/download/print National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines for Patients: Breast Cancer Metastatic. As a member of the NCCN, Rogel Cancer Center physicians helped create these guidelines and routinely follow them.

    If you have questions or want to learn how to make an appointment, please contact our Cancer AnswerLine at .

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    How Metastases Develop

    Metastatic Breast Cancer – How We Treat Metastatic Disease

    Metastases is the plural form of metastasis. Metastases most commonly develop when cancer cells break away from the main tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system. These systems carry fluids around the body. This means that the cancer cells can travel far from the original tumor and form new tumors when they settle and grow in a different part of the body.

    Metastases can also sometimes develop when cancer cells from the main tumor, typically in the belly, or abdominal cavity, break off and grow in nearby areas, such as in the liver, lungs, or bones.

    Any type of cancer can spread. Whether this happens depends on several factors, including:

    • The type of cancer. Some cancers are more likely to spread than others.

    • How fast the cancer is growing

    • Other factors about the behavior of the cancer that your doctor may find

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    A Disease No One Gets

    Sadly, people donât âgetâ mets. In fact, a recent survey sponsored by Pfizer Oncology shows just how misunderstood it is. Sixty percent of the 2,000 people surveyed knew little to nothing about MBC while 72 percent believed advanced breast cancer was curable as long as it was diagnosed early. Even more disheartening, a full 50 percent thought breast cancer progressed because patients either didnât take the right treatment or the right preventive measures.

    âTheyâve built an industry built on four words â early detection equals cure â and that doesnât even begin to define breast cancer,â said Schoger, who helped foundBreast Cancer Social Media, a virtual community for breast cancer patients, caregivers, surgeons, oncologists and others. âWomen are blamed for the fate of bad biology.â

    The MBC Alliance, a consortium of 29 cancer organizations including the biggest names in breast cancer , addressed this lack of understanding and support as well as what many patient advocates term the underfunding of MBC research in a recently published landmark report.


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