End Stage Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms
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Introduction. Breastcancer has been the focus of intense study by the scientific community over many decades with initiatives targeted at better management or fair access to new treatments for early stage disease.1 It is therefore surprising that so little attention has been given to the issues faced by women who develop metastatic disease other than in the context of end-of-life care. The symptoms of bone cancer will vary, depending on the size of the cancer and where it is in the body. Primary bone cancer is very rare. It is much more likely that some other problem is causing your symptoms.But it’s important to get any symptoms checked out by your GP..Bone cancer destroys normal bone tissue. Learn more about the symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, types,. Shortness of breath Difficulty breathing Constant dry cough Liver metastasis symptoms Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, called jaundice Itchy skin or rash Pain or swelling in the belly Loss of appetite Nausea Other symptoms and signs of metastasis Loss of appetite Weight loss Nausea Vomiting Fatigue.
Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer. The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer are different to those of early-stage breast cancer. This is because the cancer has spread to other organs and is affecting other body systems, as well as the affected breast. Most of the time, metastatic breast cancer affects the bones, lungs, brain, or liver.
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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.
Myth #: If Youre Diagnosed With Metastatic Breast Cancer You Did Something Wrong Or Didnt Get The Right Treatment The First Time
When some people hear stage IV breast cancer, they assume something must have been missed along the way to let the cancer get that far. There is a misconception that breast cancer always develops in orderly steps from stages I to II, III, and then IV and that theres plenty of time to catch it early. People with MBC can face misguided assumptions that they must have skipped mammograms or self-exams, or they didnt control risk factors such as not exercising enough, watching their weight, or eating healthy. But a person can do everything right and still get MBC. Although regular screenings increase the odds of diagnosing breast cancer at an earlier stage, they cant guarantee it.
Another major misconception: If youre diagnosed with metastatic cancer after being treated for an early-stage breast cancer, you must have chosen the wrong treatment regimen or it wasnt aggressive enough. But between 20% and 30% of people with an earlier-stage breast cancer will eventually go on to develop MBC and theres often no good explanation as to why. And it can happen to anyone. Treatments can reduce the risk of recurrence, but they cant eliminate it.
As Illimae of Houston notes: that a stage IV diagnosis equals negligence on the part of the patient. In my case, it had spread before I ever felt a lump. I felt it Saturday and saw my doc on Monday, I ignored nothing, sometimes it just happens that fast.
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Working After A Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis
The effect of a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer on work life is different for every person. You may have an understanding supervisor, a flexible schedule, and an encouraging team to support you. Or you may have questions about how best to manage treatment and work. Some women may wonder if they should be working at all. Others may feel the need to work because theyre concerned about paying for treatment.
In working with people living with stage IV disease, theres a constant conversation and struggle about whether to work or not, says Rosalind Kleban, licensed clinical social worker who serves as administrative supervisor for psychosocial programs and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center in New York City. Part of the discussion that leans toward working is that it very often acts as a distraction, a way to be involved in things and people outside of the illness. I think that both sides of the equation should be looked at very seriously because work has some value for all of us including people with an illness.
Ultimately you have to do what is right for you, your lifestyle, and your family. There is no one best way to manage the emotional, physical, and legal aspects of balancing your job and your treatment.
Learn more general information about breast cancer and your job.
Read more specific information about working with metastatic breast cancer:
Symptoms Of Angiosarcoma Of The Breast
Another rare form of breast cancer, angiosarcoma forms inside the lymph and blood vessels. Only a biopsy may definitively diagnose this type of cancer. Angiosarcoma can cause changes to the skin of your breast, such as the development of purple-colored nodules that resemble a bruise. These nodules, if bumped or scratched, may bleed. Over time, these discolored areas may expand, making your skin appear swollen in that area. You may or may not have breast lumps with angiosarcoma. If you also have lymphedema, which is swelling caused by a buildup of lymphatic fluid, angiosarcoma may occur in the affected arm. Cancer treatment sometimes damages the lymph vessels, which may lead to lymphedema.
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How Does Cancer Spread Or Metastasize
The spread of cancer usually happens through one or more of the following steps:
- Cancer cells invade nearby healthy cells. When the healthy cell is taken over, it too can replicate more abnormal cells.
- Cancer cells penetrate into the circulatory or lymph system. Cancer cells travel through the walls of nearby lymph vessels or blood vessels.
- Migration through circulation. Cancer cells are carried by the lymph system and the bloodstream to other parts of the body.
- Cancer cells lodge in capillaries. Cancer cells stop moving as they are lodged in capillaries at a distant location and divide and migrate into the surrounding tissue.
- New small tumors grow. Cancer cells form small tumors at the new location
Additional Tools For Diagnosing Advanced Breast Cancer
The additional tools below are often used specifically for diagnosing advanced cancer:
Sentinel lymph node biopsy: This procedure removes sentinel lymph node cells during surgery for examination. When breast cancer spreads, it often heads first to the lymph nodes.
Chest X-ray: This detailed image of the chest may help doctors see whether cancer has spread to the bones.
Computed tomography scan: Also known as a CAT scan, this procedure takes detailed pictures of internal areas of the body using a computer linked to an X-ray machine. A dye may be used to help the organs show up more clearly in the images.
Bone scan: This procedure looks for bone metastasis, or cancer cells that have spread to the bone. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the blood, then detected with a scanner.
Positron emission tomography scan: A PET scan is a detailed imaging tool that uses a radioactive drug, known as a tracer, to search for cancer cells within your body.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer symptoms vary widely from lumps to swelling to skin changes and many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms at all.
In some cases, a lump may be too small for you to feel or to cause any unusual changes you can notice on your own. Often, an abnormal area turns up on a screening mammogram , which leads to further testing.
In other cases, however, the first sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast that you or your doctor can feel. A lump that is painless, hard, and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But sometimes cancers can be tender, soft, and rounded.
a lump in the underarm area
These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions that are not cancerous, such as an infection or a cyst. Again, its important to get any breast changes checked out promptly by a doctor.
Its smart to perform a monthly breast self-exam so you are familiar with your breasts and have a better chance of noticing any changes. And you should visit your doctor if you experience breast changes.
If you’re over 40 or at a high risk of breast cancer, you should also have an annual mammogram and physical exam by a doctor. The earlier breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the better your chances of successful treatment.
Last updated on June 29, 2022, 3:03 PM
Symptoms Of Regional Recurrence
Symptoms of a regional recurrence may include:
- lumps in your lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone
- chest pain
- pain or loss of sensation in your arm or shoulder
- swelling in your arm on the same side as the original breast cancer
If youve had a mastectomy or other surgery related to breast cancer, you might get lumps or bumps caused by scar tissue in the reconstructed breast. This isnt cancer, but you should let your doctor know about them so they can be monitored.
As with any cancer, early detection and treatment are major factors in determining the outcome. Breast cancer is easily treated and usually curable when detected in the earliest stages.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, according to the World Health Organization . Whether youre concerned about breast pain or tenderness, its important to stay informed on risk factors and warning signs of breast cancer.
The best way to fight breast cancer is early detection. Talk with your doctor about when you should start breast cancer screening.
If youre worried that your breast pain or tenderness could be something serious, make an appointment with your doctor today. If you find a lump in your breast see your doctor.
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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.
Myth #: When Breast Cancer Travels To The Bone Brain Or Lungs It Then Becomes Bone Cancer Brain Cancer Or Lung Cancer
Not true. Breast cancer is still breast cancer, wherever it travels in the body. However, the characteristics of the cells can change over time. For example, a breast cancer that tested negative for hormone receptors or an abnormal HER2 gene might test positive when it moves to another part of the body, or vice versa . Keep in mind that the cancer cells are trying to survive in the body, so they can change, says Dr. Gupta. We always emphasize rechecking the biology.
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Treatment For Advanced Breast Cancer
Treatment of metastatic breast cancer aims to control the growth and spread of the cancer, to relieve symptoms, reduce pain, and improve or maintain quality of life.
The treatment recommended by doctors will depend on which treatments are likely to control the breast cancer and what side effects the person can cope with. Treatment options may involve:
How Can My Symptoms Be Relieved
It is very unlikely that you will have all of these symptoms or even most of them. If you have any symptoms that are troubling you, let your doctor or nurse know. Sometimes radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be used to help symptoms. But there other things that can help. Read more about coping with side effects and symptoms.
When Do People Get A Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Metastatic breast cancer can occur at different points:
- De novo metastatic breast cancer: About 6% of women and 9% of men have metastatic breast cancer when theyre first diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Distant recurrence: Most commonly, metastatic breast cancer is diagnosed after the original breast cancer treatment. A recurrence refers to the cancer coming back and spreading to a different part of the body, which can happen even years after the original diagnosis and treatment.
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.
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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.
Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Metastatic Breast Cancer
The most common parts of the body where breast cancer tends to spread are the bones, lungs, brain, and liver. But metastatic breast cancer can affect other parts of the body, as well.
Metastatic breast cancer symptoms can be very different depending on the cancers location, but may include:
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 a spinal tap removes fluid from around the spinal cord and a tap of fluid in the abdomen removes fluid in the abdominal cavity
These tests may also be used if you have no history of breast cancer and your doctor is having trouble determining the cause of your symptoms.
When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, its important to confirm whether the cancer has certain characteristics that may influence your treatment options, such as HER2 status and hormone receptor status. If you have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer years after an early-stage breast cancer diagnosis, it may seem logical to assume that the hormone receptor status and HER2 status are the same. But research has shown that the hormone receptor status and HER2 status of early-stage breast cancer can be different than that of a metastatic recurrence.
A biopsy may be done to determine these factors that can influence your treatment, which will be listed in your pathology report.
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Integrative Therapies For Metastatic Breast Cancer
You may find it beneficial to add integrative therapies to your treatment plan. There are many evidence-informed integrative modalities to boost the mind and body. Practices like gentle yoga, meditation, massage and music therapy may feel enjoyable and reduce stress and anxiety levels.
To help our patients maintain quality of life after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, our team of breast cancer experts may offer supportive care services to help manage side effects of the disease and its treatments. These may include:
Before starting any integrative therapies, however, ask your care team for advice on which ones are most suited to you and fit into your overall treatment plan, as well as how to do them safely.
What Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Metastatic Breast Cancer
If youve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, ask your provider:
- What are my treatment options?
- What is my prognosis?
- What side effects can I expect?
- Will complementary therapy help me feel better?
- What if I want to stop treatment?
- How can I feel my best during treatment?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Metastatic breast cancer is advanced breast cancer. Providers classify it as stage 4 breast cancer. It happens when cancer cells, often left behind after previous breast cancer treatment, start to spread to other parts of the body. While there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, treatment can prolong your life and help you feel better. There are many medications available, so if one treatment isnt working, your care team can try a different approach. If you notice any symptoms or dont feel your best, especially if youve undergone breast cancer treatment in the past, talk to your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/14/2021.
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Other Causes Of Breast Pain And Tenderness
We often associate pain with something wrong, so when people feel tenderness or pain in their breast, they often think of breast cancer. But breast pain is rarely the first noticeable symptom of breast cancer. Several other factors can cause pain.
Clinically known as mastalgia, breast pain can also be caused by the following:
- the fluctuation of hormones caused by menstruation
Local Or Regional Treatments For Stage Iv Breast Cancer
Although systemic drugs are the main treatment for stage IV breast cancer, local and regional treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, or regional chemotherapy are sometimes used as well. These can help treat breast cancer in a specific part of the body, but they are very unlikely to get rid of all of the cancer. These treatments are more likely to be used to help prevent or treat symptoms or complications from the cancer.
Radiation therapy and/or surgery may also be used in certain situations, such as:
- When the breast tumor is causing an open or painful wound in the breast
- To treat a small number of metastases in a certain area, such as the brain
- To help prevent or treat bone fractures
- When a cancer is pressing on the spinal cord
- To treat a blood vessel blockage in the liver
- To provide relief of pain or other symptoms anywhere in the body
In some cases, regional chemo may be useful as well.
If your doctor recommends such local or regional treatments, it is important that you understand the goalwhether it is to try to cure the cancer or to prevent or treat symptoms.
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