When To Contact A Doctor
The ACS suggests that women between the ages of 4554 years get a mammogram every year. But some people with a higher risk for breast cancer may require earlier tests, such as those with a family history of the disease.
The ACS also notes that women between the ages of 4044 years should have the option to begin screening with a mammogram every year should they wish to.
Anyone who discovers a lump or experiences symptoms similar to those of breast cancer should talk with their doctor as soon as possible.
People undergoing treatment should also talk with their doctor about their experience and side effects. A doctor can suggest additional medications to help with side effects.
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.
Whats The Outlook For Metastatic Breast Cancer
The right treatment plan can improve survival for people with metastatic breast cancer. However, survival rates vary and are dependent on a number of factors including type/biology of the breast cancer, parts of the body involved and individual characteristics. About 1 in 3 women live at least five years after diagnosis. Some live 10 years or longer. Your care team will discuss your prognosis with you in more detail.
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Plans Have To Be Flexible
My energy is unpredictable, says Sendelbach. I literally never know how Im going to feel from one day to the next. Its so hard to make plans because if I say yes to something thats two weeks away, the day of, I could wake up and feel absolutely horrible.
When someone with metastatic breast cancer declines an invitation or cancels at the last minute, its most likely not because they dont want to be there. Says Sendelbach, We physically cant do it.
Silberman agrees. Ive been going through for a long time, she says, and Ive had friends drop away. Because of MBC and my treatments, its hard for me to be reliable.
What Are The Signs Of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer is stage IV cancer, which has spread to other parts of the body. Cancers are a group of diseases in which some types of cells turn abnormal and proliferate without control. Cancer can start anywhere and spread to any part of the body, but is named by the organ in which it first develops. Men can also develop breast cancer, although it is rare.
If breast cancer spreads to the bone, it is still considered metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the bone; it is not considered to be bone cancer. In metastatic breast cancer, breast cancer cells break from the primary tumor, travel through blood or lymph fluid, settle into other parts of the body and start growing into new metastatic breast tumors.
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Metastatic Breast Cancer Scans
Diagnostic scans are performed to find out if you have MBC and to measure response to treatment or progression of metastatic tumors. No matter how many times you have been through a scan, there is often anxiety involved in either the process itself or waiting for results. This is normal.
The most typical scans are:
Bone scans reveal if cancer has spread to the bones. In most MBC cases, metastases first occur in the bones. These scans look at the bones for hot spots that may reveal cancer. To conduct a bone scan, your healthcare provider injects dye, then waits a few hours for it to move through the bloodstream so it can be visible in the scan.
A chest x-ray may reveal if breast cancer has spread to the lungs. Metastases in the lungs rarely cause pain, but they can cause shortness of breath or a cough that wont go away.
This scan provides a more-detailed x-ray of the body, usually in order to look for metastases in the brain, lungs and/or liver. Before the scan, you will either ingest a contrast dye and/or have it injected into a vein. The dye highlights specific areas of the body more clearly. A computer rotates around the body, creating a three-dimensional image.
A liver scan involves having a contrast dye injected into the vein. The dye will collect in areas where there is activity that could indicate cancer growth.
PET CT Scan
How Is Secondary Breast Cancer In The Bone Treated
Treatment for secondary breast cancer in the bone aims to relieve symptoms such as pain, maintain and improve mobility and strengthen the bones, as well as slow down the growth of the cancer.
Treatments can be given alone or in combination.
When making decisions about how the best treatment for you, your specialist team will consider factors such as:
- how extensive the cancer is in the bones
- whether the cancer has spread to other organs
- any symptoms you have
- what treatment youve had in the past
- the features of the cancer
- whether you have been through the menopause
- your general health
Your specialist should discuss any recommendations for treatment with you and take your wishes into account. They will talk with you about your options, explain what the aims of treatment will be and help you weigh up the potential benefits against the possible side effects.
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How Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Diagnosed
Diagnosing metastatic breast cancer can involve different tests and lab procedures, depending on where the cancer metastasizes.;For example, the location of the cancer may spread to the lungs, bone, brain, or liver.;The tests used to diagnose metastatic breast cancer may differ for each area or organ that is involved.
Metastasis involves the spread of cancer to distant areas or organs of the body.;When it spreads to two or more distant areas, this is known as metastatic cancer or stage IV disease. Breast cancer that spreads to local areas such as the lymph nodes is not considered metastasis, but rather, locally advanced breast cancer.
In the majority of cases, metastatic cancer is diagnosed after a cancer has already been treated at an earlier stage. But in 6% to 10% of all cases of breast cancer, the cancer has already spread at initial diagnosis and is considered stage IV. Therefore, its easy to understand why early diagnosis of breast cancer is so vital.
Breast cancer can spread to different parts of the body, most commonly to the bones, the brain, lungs, liver or even to the skin. Sometimes, other organs are involved. It’s important to note that breast cancer that spreads to any of these sites is not the same as cancers that originate in them.
Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Go Into Remission
Metastatic breast cancer may never go away completely. But treatment can control its spread. Cancer may even go into remission at some points. This means you have fewer signs and symptoms of cancer.
A treatment break may be considered in certain situations, including if remission occurs or if someone is experiencing intolerable side effects. A pause in treatment can help you feel your best and improve your quality of life.
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What Are Skin Metastases
Skin metastases are secondary breast cancers that form on or just below the skin.
Secondary breast cancer happens when cancer cells spread from the breast to other parts of the body. Sometimes breast cancer cells can spread to the skin. This can happen through the blood or lymphatic system.;;
The most common sites affected are the areas near where the original breast cancer was for example the skin of the chest wall or around the surgical scar. Less commonly, skin metastases can occur on other areas of skin, such as on the scalp, neck, abdomen, back and upper limbs.
About a fifth of people with secondary breast cancer will develop skin metastases.;
This is not the same as having cancer that starts in the skin. The cells that have spread to the skin are breast cancer cells.;
Its also different to local recurrence, which is when primary breast cancer has come back in the chest or breast area, or in the skin near the original site or scar.
Keep Positivity In Check
Adopting an optimistic outlook can make the cancer journey more pleasant but consider your words carefully. Statements like Think positive thoughts or You can beat this shut down the conversation and can make the person feel like they have to hide feelings like shock, pain, anger, and deep sadness, says Kim Romig, a clinical social worker at City of Hope, a comprehensive cancer center in Los Angeles. Instead, create a safe space for people to be mad and angry. Then choose meaningful reassurances that are within your control like, Im going to be there for you no matter what.
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Why Does My Provider Need To Test The Metastatic Tumor
Your care team will test the metastases to figure out the biology of the tumor, which can help guide your treatment plan. Providers may test tumors for:
- Hormone receptor status: If the cancer is hormone receptor-positive, hormonal therapy may be your first treatment.
- HER2 status: Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 is a protein that is overexpressed on some breast cancer cells. HER2-positive cancer responds to specific HER2-targeted therapies.
- PIK3CA gene mutation: If a tumor is hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative, your provider may test for this gene mutation. Specific targeted therapies can be used to treat tumors with this mutation.
- PD-L1 status: Tumors that are hormone receptive-negative and HER2-negative may be tested for PD-L1 status. If the PD-L1 test is positive, you may be recommended to receive a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy.
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
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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What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells in the breast start to divide uncontrollably. A tumor is a mass or collection of these abnormal cells.
Metastasis refers to cancer cells that have spread to a new area of the body. In metastatic breast cancer, cells may spread to the:
Healthcare providers name cancer based on its primary origin. That means breast cancer that spreads to other body parts is still considered breast cancer. The cancer cells are still breast cancer cells. Your care team will use breast cancer therapies, even if the cancer cells are in other areas.
Most Common Places It Spreads
It’s still breast cancer, even if it’s in another organ. For example, if breast cancer spreads to your lungs, that doesn’t mean you have lung cancer. Although it can spread to any part of your body, there are certain places it’s most likely to go to, including the lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, and brain.
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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 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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What Complications Does Lung Metastasis Present
Every type of metastasis comes with its own risks for complications. Some of these complications may be serious, especially one with a compromised immune system due to treatment. Others are simply something to watch out for and try to avoid so that you can stay healthy enough to continue being treated and maintain a high quality of life.
One potential complication of lung metastasis is fluid in the chest. If cancer cells grow in the pleural space between the lung and the chest wall, they may cause a build-up of excess fluid, which leads to pain in the chest, coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing. This is treatable by draining the fluid or performing a procedure called pleurodesis, in which the space between the lung and chest wall is manually closed so it cannot collect fluid.
Other potential complications of metastatic cancers include psychological impact and toxicity from treatment. You may experience depression, anxiety, or excess stress from the former, and it might be a good idea to seek psychological treatment to help you cope. With the latter, you could experience constipation, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, infection, or just generally lowered immune system function. These are important symptoms to watch out for as you try to stay healthy.
Most importantly of all, do not lose hope! Metastatic breast cancer does not have to keep you from living a fulfilling life.
What Is The Prognosis Of Metastatic Breast Cancer In The Lungs
Metastatic cancer is the most advanced form of cancer and is not considered curable. However, some people survive for many years with their disease and live a happy and healthy life despite their disease.
The average five-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer in the lungs is about 22 percent. Your ability to survive and thrive for several more years depends on a variety of factors, such as your age, your overall health, the size of your tumors, how the tumors respond to treatment, and whether the cancer has metastasized to just the lungs or to other areas of the body as well.
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When Metastatic Cancer Can No Longer Be Controlled
If you have been told your;cancer can no longer be controlled, you and your loved ones may want to discuss end-of-life care. Whether or not you choose to continue;treatment;to shrink the cancer or control its growth, you can always receive palliative care to control the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Information on coping with and planning for end-of-life care is available in the Advanced Cancer section of this site.
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.
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Tests To Diagnose Metastatic Breast Cancer
If you have any of the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests:
- blood tests
- whole-body bone scan, with or without X-rays of specific bones
- MRI of the spine or brain
- CT scan of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and/or brain
- PET scan
- X-ray or ultrasound of the abdomen or chest
- bronchoscopy if you have a constant cough or trouble breathing
- biopsy of any suspicious area
- a “tap,” removal of fluid from the area with symptoms to check for cancer cells; a pleural tap removes fluid between the lung and chest wall and a spinal tap removes fluid from around the spinal cord
You can read the following pages for information on symptoms of breast cancer metastasis and diagnosis: