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.
How To Know If You Have Breast Cancer
This article was medically reviewed by . Dr. Litza is a board certified Family Medicine Physician in Wisconsin. She is a practicing Physician and taught as a Clinical Professor for 13 years, after receiving her MD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in 1998.There are 24 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 576,335 times.
How Do You Know If You Have Cancer
There are over 200 different types of cancer that can cause many different symptoms. Sometimes symptoms are linked to certain cancer types. But signs can also be more general, including weight loss, tiredness or unexplained pain.
You dont need to try and remember all the signs and symptoms of cancer, but we have listed some key ones to give you an idea of the kind of things to be aware of. These symptoms are more often a sign of something far less serious – but if it is cancer, spotting it early can make a real difference.
Remember, anyone can develop cancer, but its more common as we get older. Most cases are in people aged 50 or over. Whatever your age, its always best to listen to your body and talk to your doctor if something doesnt feel quite right. Whether its a change thats new, unusual, or something that wont go away get it checked out.
Some possible signs of cancer like a lump – are better known than others. But just because some symptoms are more well known, doesnt mean theyre more important, or more likely to be cancer. If you spot anything that isnt normal for you – dont ignore it. Whether its on this list or not, get it checked out.
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Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women.
The most common signs are:
- A change in the look or feel of the breast OR
- A change in the look or feel of the nipple OR
- Nipple discharge
If you have any of the warning signs described below, see a health care provider .
If you dont have a provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend.
If thats not an option, call your health department, a clinic or a nearby hospital. If you have insurance, your insurance company may also have a list of providers in your area.
Learn more about finding a health care provider.
In most cases, these changes are not cancer.
One example is breast pain. Pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to get it checked.
If the change turns out to be breast cancer, its best to find it at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest.
Breast Cancer In Young Women
Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. While breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are difficult for women of any age, young survivors may find it overwhelming.
CDC is working to increase awareness of breast cancer and improve the health and quality of life of young breast cancer survivors and young women who are at higher risk of getting breast cancer.
The Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women helps CDC develop evidence-based approaches to advance understanding and awareness of breast cancer among young women.Links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the CDC website.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot attest to the accuracy of a non-federal website.
- Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website.
- CDC is not responsible for Section 508 compliance on other federal or private website.
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Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
Pinpointing breast cancer in its earliest stages isnt easy because breast cancer signs and symptoms are different for everyone. Sometimes there is a palpable lump or tenderness. Very often, there is neither. Generally, breast cancer shows no symptoms in the early stage.
However, there are certain changes in the breast that may indicate breast cancer in both men and women.
Whether you are a man or a woman, its important to become familiar with your breasts so you can recognize when changes occur and seek timely treatment. Know the facts and understand your risk factors for the disease, such as genetics and family history, by reviewing these frequently asked questions.
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented
Unfortunately, there isnt a way to prevent breast cancer completely. However, lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight and lowering alcohol consumption can help to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
If you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, your doctor may suggest hormone treatments , or a pre-emptive mastectomy.
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Why Do My Breasts Hurt
Breast pain is very common in women of all ages.
Having painful, sore or tender breasts can cause a lot of anxiety. But on its own, pain in the breasts isn’t usually a sign of breast cancer.
Many women experience breast pain as part of their normal menstrual cycle . This is called cyclical breast pain.
Lasting pain in the breast thats not related to periods is known as non-cyclical breast pain.
Sometimes pain that feels as though it’s in the breast is coming from somewhere else, such as a pulled muscle in the chest. This is known as chest wall pain.
What Are The Chances Of Breast Cancer Returning
Each persons risk of breast cancer recurrence is different and depends on many factors, such as the size, type, grade and features of the cancer and whether the lymph nodes were affected.
Your treatment team can tell you more about your individual risk of recurrence if you want to know this.
The risk of breast cancer recurring is higher in the first few years and reduces as time goes on.
However, recurrence can happen even many years after treatment, which is why its important to be breast and body aware, and report any changes to your treatment team or GP.
In the UK, the number of people surviving breast cancer has risen greatly over the past decade and most people diagnosed with primary breast cancer will not have a recurrence.
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You’re Experiencing Abnormal Discharge
While nipple discharge from breast milk is totally normal, if you’re noticing discharge that’s clear or bloody, that’s something you should get checked out since it could be a sign of breast cancer, says the National Breast Cancer Foundation. If you have discharge that’s milky, it could be something else, like hormonal changes or certain medication use.
How Does The Doctor Know I Have Breast Cancer
A change seen on your mammogram may be the first sign of breast cancer. Or you may have found a lump or other change in your breast.
The doctor will ask you questions about your health and will do a physical exam. A breast exam is done to look for changes in the nipples or the skin of your breasts. The doctor will also check the lymph nodes under your arm and above your collarbone. Swollen or hard lymph nodes might mean breast cancer has spread there.
If signs are pointing to breast cancer, more tests will be done. Here are some of the tests you may need:
Mammogram: This is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms are mostly used to find breast cancer early. But another mammogram might be done to look more closely at the breast problem you might have.
MRI scan: MRIs use radio waves and strong magnets instead of x-rays to make detailed pictures. MRIs can be used to learn more about the size of the cancer and look for other tumors in the breast.
Breast ultrasound: For this test, a small wand is moved around on your skin. It gives off sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off tissues. The echoes are made into a picture that you can see on a computer screen. Ultrasound can help the doctor see if a lump is a fluid-filled cyst , or if it’s a tumor that could be cancer.
Nipple discharge exam: If you have fluid coming from your nipple, some of it may be sent to a lab. There, it will be checked to see if there are cancer cells in it.
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What Are Brca1 And Brca2
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce proteins that help repair damaged DNA. Everyone has two copies of each of these genesone copy inherited from each parent. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are sometimes called tumor suppressor genes because when they have certain changes, called harmful variants , cancer can develop.
People who inherit harmful variants in one of these genes have increased risks of several cancersmost notably breast and ovarian cancer, but also several additional types of cancer. People who have inherited a harmful variant in BRCA1 and BRCA2 also tend to develop cancer at younger ages than people who do not have such a variant.
A harmful variant in BRCA1 or BRCA2 can be inherited from either parent. Each child of a parent who carries any mutation in one of these genes has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutation. Inherited mutationsalso called germline mutations or variantsare present from birth in all cells in the body.
Even if someone has inherited a harmful variant in BRCA1 or BRCA2 from one parent, they would have inherited a normal copy of that gene from the other parent . But the normal copy can be lost or change in some cells in the body during that persons lifetime. Such a change is called a somatic alteration. Cells that dont have any functioning BRCA1 or BRCA2 proteins can grow out of control and become cancer.
How A Breast Cancers Stage Is Determined
Your pathology report will include information that is used to calculate the stage of the breast cancer that is, whether it is limited to one area in the breast, or it has spread to healthy tissues inside the breast or to other parts of the body. Your doctor will begin to determine this during surgery to remove the cancer and look at one or more of the underarm lymph nodes, which is where breast cancer tends to travel first. He or she also may order additional blood tests or imaging tests if there is reason to believe the cancer might have spread beyond the breast.
The breast cancer staging system, called the TNM system, is overseen by the American Joint Committee on Cancer . The AJCC is a group of cancer experts who oversee how cancer is classified and communicated. This is to ensure that all doctors and treatment facilities are describing cancer in a uniform way so that the treatment results of all people can be compared and understood.
In the past, stage number was calculated based on just three clinical characteristics, T, N, and M:
- the size of the cancer tumor and whether or not it has grown into nearby tissue
- whether cancer is in the lymph nodes
- whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body beyond the breast
Numbers or letters after T, N, and M give more details about each characteristic. Higher numbers mean the cancer is more advanced. Jump to more detailed information about the TNM system.
Jump to a specific breast cancer stage to learn more:
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Seeking Help And Medical Evaluation From Your Physician
You Have A Reddish Or Purple Nipple
Noticing your nipple change colors isn’t a great sign. According to Holly Pederson, MD, director of medical breast services at the Cleveland Clinic, it could be a symptom of cancer and could also involve flaking and irritation. “Cancer can originate in the nipple,” she told WebMD. “The nipple will look reddish or purplish it doesn’t look normal. It’s actually the tumor cells invading the nipple that cause the skin to look different if it is breast cancer.”
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What Are The Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
Being a woman and getting older are the main risk factors for breast cancer.
Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. The main factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older.
Some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know of. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease, and not all risk factors have the same effect. Most women have some risk factors, but most women do not get breast cancer. If you have breast cancer risk factors, talk with your doctor about ways you can lower your risk and about screening for breast cancer.
Coping With Worries About Recurrence
Nearly everyone who has been treated for cancer worries about it coming back.
At first, every ache or pain can frighten you. But, as time passes, you may come to accept minor symptoms for what they are in most cases warning signs of a cold or flu or the result of over-exerting yourself.
Some events may be particularly stressful the days or weeks leading up to your check-ups, the discovery that a friend or relative has been diagnosed with cancer or the news that someone you met while having treatment is ill again or has died.
We all cope with such anxieties in our own way and there are no easy answers. But keeping quiet about them and not wanting to bother anyone is probably not the best approach.
Just as talking about your diagnosis and treatment may have helped you through the early days, talking about your fears relating to recurrence may help you later on.
Breast Cancer Nows Forum lets you share your worries with other people in a similar situation to you.
You can also read our tips on coping with anxiety and find suggestions in BECCA, our free app that helps you move forward after breast cancer.
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