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How Do You Know If Breast Cancer Has Spread

Noninvasive Or Preinvasive Breast Cancers

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Noninvasive cancers remain confined to the primary site of development, but are always treated, because it is not possible to know if they will become invasive or not. Noninvasive breast cancers include:

A Little Bit About The Internal Mammary Lymph Nodes

The internal mammary nodes are located behind the ribs. Ribs are made of bone, but in the front, they turn into cartilage just before they join the sternum.

So, each rib attaches to the sternum with cartilage and each of these cartilage bars is around 5 cm long. Thus, it can be very difficult to remove an internal mammary node. There is an internal mammary artery and vein along with the lymph ducts and other veins.

If you need to remove an internal mammary node, the cartilage in front needs to be cut out. Cartilage, unfortunately, does not grow back or heal and this will leave a gap which makes the rib essentially useless.

So, it is a judgement call by the surgeon as to whether or not one should attempt a surgical approach to remove internal mammary nodes with positive metastasis. This is because surgical removal is just too damaging to the function of the chest and ribs.

However, electron beam radiotherapy is an effective treatment for internal mammary nodes. The electrons penetrate to about the correct depth to reach the internal mammary nodes.

Treatment of Stage IIIa Breast Cancer

The treatment for women with stage IIIa breast cancers tends to be a modified radical mastectomy and locoregional radiotherapy.

Often, chemotherapy is given as adjuvant therapy, but in some cases , pre-operative chemotherapy is also recommended. Breast conservation is generally not a good option with stage IIIa breast cancers.

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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How Is The Spinal Column Affected By Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer remains an incurable disease and the spinal column is most likely affected by metastases. A significantly prolonged patient survival is the consequence of modern oncologic treatment options in the last decade. Surgical treatment of vertebral metastases has become an increasing focus for spine surgeons.

Where Can Breast Cancer Spread

Cancers Spread to Bone

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.

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Myth #: People With Metastatic Breast Cancer Look Sick And Lose Their Hair

You dont look sick. You look so well. Why do you still have your hair? Are you sure you have cancer? These are comments that people with MBC report hearing. But there are many treatment options besides chemotherapy, and people often appear well while taking them.

As NancyHB comments: Id much rather be a poster child for how sometimes we can live with, rather than die from, MBC at least for a while. Instead, I find myself defending against people who are increasingly becoming impatient with my lack of cancer-patient appearance. Im grateful for this time of feeling good, and theyre harshing my buzz.

Some people with MBC report that they actually look better than they feel while in treatment. So they sometimes have to let family and friends know that even though they appear fine, they dont feel well.

Shetland Pony notes: If she looks good, she is good. Nope. Many of us suffer from the invisible disability of fatigue. I would venture to say every available treatment causes us some level of fatigue. We struggle to keep up. It may look like we are doing the bare minimum when we are really giving it our all.

JoE777 of Texas adds: The new normals advertised about therapies on TV are deceiving about the side effects. They talk about side effects while women are skipping through life. not looking to show the harsh side effects but think there is something wrong with me that my life is not like that.

About Those Lymph Nodes

A surgeon will usually take a lymph node biopsy to determine if the breast cancer has spread to the axillary lymph nodes. This is not always necessary, however. A lymph node biopsy is not usually necessary for DCIS. However, for invasive breast cancer, yes, they do need to check the lymph nodes.

Sometimes, doctors will perform a sentinel node biopsy, rather than a full lymph node excisional biopsy if the concerns about cancer spread are minimal. Cancer cells tend to appear first in the sentinel node before spreading to the other nodes, or other areas of the body.

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Common Signs Of Breast Cancer Metastasis

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread from the breast area to other organs in the body, including the bones, lungs, liver or brain. Even though the cancer extends to different parts of the body, the cancer is still treated as breast cancer because the cancer cells originated in the breast region. Known as Stage 4 breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced form of breast cancer and does not represent a specific type. According to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, it is approximated that more than 154,000 women in the United States have metastatic breast cancer.

No woman wants to hear that she has breast cancer, so its important to be aware of the warning signs that can indicate metastatic breast cancer. Its also important to receive routine mammograms and breast screenings, so your doctor can monitor your breast health. The symptoms for metastatic breast cancer can vary depending on where the cancer has spread, and on the individual. Many people may experience no apparent warning signs of metastatic cancer.

If you notice any of these warning signs, contact your doctor at Regional Cancer Care Associates immediately for an examination.

Can You Tell When Exactly My Breast Cancer Started

How Breast Cancer Spreads Throughout The Body

Often times, one of the most frequently asked questions I get when someone is diagnosed with breast cancer is when did it begin? says Roesch. And the general rule is that we really cant tell for sure when the cancer popped up. We can look at the subtype of breast cancer to perhaps get a better understanding if it was weeks vs. months for example, but theres no way to tell for sure.

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What Is Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is cancer that starts in the breast tissues. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. Men can also develop breast cancer, however, less than 1% of breast cancers are diagnosed in men.

Cancers are a unique group of diseases caused by genetic mutations, which make certain types of cells turn abnormal and grow out of control. Most types of cancers grow into masses of tissue known as tumors. Cancer spreads when tumor cells break off from the primary tumor, migrate to other parts of the body and start growing.

Can You Do Anything To Prevent Or Slow The Spread Of Breast Cancer

Like any type of cancer, there are factors that can put you at higher risk. For breast cancer, these include things like smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and not performing monthly self-breast exams. Its also important to make sure and get your annual mammogram for breast cancer screening.

Other risk factors can include using hormone-based prescriptions, how many children youve had in the past, getting older and at what age you got your period and went through menopause.

In some instances, you cant necessarily prevent breast cancer, but you can sometimes slow it down, stop it from spreading or reduce the size of the tumor, says Dr. Roesch. You can do this by taking your medications as directed, following through with treatments, going to your appointments and being involved in your cancer care.

Youre in control of taking your medication correctly, eating a healthy diet, participating in an exercise program and managing stress. All of these things can contribute to a stronger physical body and better mental attitude both of which can have a positive impact on your breast cancer diagnosis.

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Local And Regional Recurrence Of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer that comes back in the breast, chest, scar or lymph nodes nearby is called a local or regional recurrence. This is not secondary breast cancer. If you have a local or regional recurrence, you may have tests to check the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.

We have more information about breast cancer recurrence.

See also

What Is Metastatic Cancer

5 Things You Must Know About Breast Cancer Prevention ...

In metastasis, cancer cells break away from where they first formed , travel through the blood or lymph system, and form new tumors in other parts of the body. The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor.

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.

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What Are The Signs That Breast Cancer Has Spread

Metastatic breast cancer is a secondary cancer the cancerous cells originate in breast tissue and then travel to other parts of the body. The most common areas of breast cancer metastasis are the bones, lungs and liver.

Following an initial breast cancer diagnosis, a patient will receive a personalized monitoring plan for metastatic reoccurrence from their care team. Depending on the specific parts of the body affected, the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can vary.

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 Breastcancer.org professional advisory board member Sameer Gupta, M.D., 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, Aren’t you on chemo? And I worked with this woman for a number of years, she was not a stranger!

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Common Signs That Breast Cancer Has Spread Other Parts Of The Body

by komenover3212 | Apr 29, 2019 | Medical Facts |

Once you develop breast cancer, you can never understand where next it will spread to. Cancer remains one of the world health threats for most of the people whether young or old that is reported across the world. When signs of cancer are identified in the earlier stages, just like the having an oral cancer with simple tooth gum pain better visit the dentist right away so that the condition can easily be treated or managed to enable patients to live longer. Dont wait until the condition worsens with clears signs breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body before you consider a checkup.

Every type of cancer develops in stages when cancer cells attack the body. In the early stages, the cells may not affect the normal body condition and the body may seem normal and very healthy. The impact and effect of breast cancer on the body will depend on the effects it has on other organs that have been affected by the spreading of the cancer cells.

From stage one, cancer can move all the way to stage four where the symptoms become clear and the body immune made totally weak. When the body can no longer defend itself against the danger caused by cancer cells the symptoms become very clear.

Some of the parts that breast cancer can spread to after attacking the breast include bone, liver, skin, brain and lungs. Among all the types of cancers that people may have, breast cancer is among the most recorded especially in women.

Emotional And Spiritual Care

Breast cancer spread to the lymph nodes

End-of-life care also includes emotional, mental, and spiritual therapy. A personâs healthcare team may include social workers, counselors, mental health professionals, and religious or spiritual advisors.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, up to 40 percent of people with cancer experience serious mental distress. This may include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder .

Medications, therapy, religious or spiritual rituals, and support groups can help a person cope with mental health issues and stress during this difficult time.

Caregivers may also need help with stress, anxiety, and depression. The palliative care team can usually also provide support and advice to caregivers for their emotional needs.

The Breast Cancer Healthline app provides people with access to an online breast cancer community, where users can connect with others and gain advice and support through group discussions.

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Metastatic Breast Cancer: 20 Terms You Should Know

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer which is breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body, such as the liver, brain, bones, or lungs youll likely encounter a lot of unfamiliar terminology when trying to learn about the disease.

Here are 20 key terms that can help you better understand the diagnosis, treatments, and the experience of living with metastatic breast cancer.

1. Advanced-stage: Many doctors think about breast cancer as being either early-stage or advanced-stage. Advanced-stage breast cancer includes:

  • metastatic breast cancer, which has spread beyond the breast and nearby tissue to other parts of the body away from the breast
  • locally advanced breast cancer, which has spread to tissue near the breast, but not to other parts of the body away from the breast

When talking about the specific stage numbers of breast cancer, the National Cancer Institute defines early-stage as stage I through stage IIIA and advanced-stage as stage IIIB, stage IIIC, and stage IV.

2. Bone metastasis: This is cancer that has spread from an original tumor site to the bones. The bones are the most common place for breast cancer to spread, followed by the lungs , the brain , and the liver .

12. No Evidence of Disease : When there is no detectable evidence of breast cancer in your body after your doctor examines you or you have imaging after treatment, doctors call it no evidence of disease, commonly referred to as NED.

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