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Signs Breast Cancer Has Spread To Bones

Breast Cancer Metastasis To Bone Life Expectancy

Quick Guide on Symptoms of Bone Metastases for Metastatic Breast Cancer Survivors

Metastatic breast cancer in the bones prognosis typically isn’t as favorable as early-stage breast cancers. The five-year relative survival rate for people with metastatic breast cancer is about 29%.

That means people with metastatic breast cancer are about 29% as likely to be alive five years after diagnosis as people who don’t have that cancer.

However, some evidence shows that metastatic breast cancer in the bones seems to have one of the best survival rates compared to other types of metastatic breast cancer.

A 2019 study published in the journal BMC Cancer looked at five years of data to track the survival rates of stage four breast cancer patients and calculated specific rates based on the site of metastasis.

The researchers found that patients with bone metastasis had the best overall survival rate, with 50.5% surviving for over three years.

For comparison, people with brain metastases had a three-year OS rate of 19.9%. People with liver and lung metastasis had a three-year OS rate of 38.2% and 37.5%, respectively.

Other research published in BMJ Open estimated that the one-year survival rate of metastatic breast cancer in the bones is 51%. And the five-year survival rate is 13%. But those numbers are estimates, not foregone conclusions.

A lot of factors can impact a person’s prognosis, said Dr. Lin, including:

  • The type of cancer they have
  • Where cancerous cells spread
  • Any other pre-existing conditions or health problems

How Are Bone Metastases Treated

Although it is not possible to cure bone metastases, they are not usually life-threatening. Many women enjoy active lives for many years after bone metastases are diagnosed.

Treatments for bone metastases aim to improve your quality of life by reducing symptoms, such as pain or bone fractures. Treatment will depend on:

  • which bones are affected
  • whether your bones have been weakened and are in danger of breaking
  • characteristics of your original breast cancer, such as type of tumour and the type of receptor the tumour had or HER2 receptor)
  • other treatments you have had for primary or secondary breast cancer
  • systemic cancer treatments which work on the whole body.

Treatments are often very effective in stopping the growth or decreasing the size of cancerous deposits in the bones. Current treatments are not usually able to completely remove all cancer cells from the bones.

There are three types of treatment for bone metastases:

  • treatments to control pain
  • local treatments for the bones which are directed at a single bone or area
  • systemic cancer treatments (such as
  • hormone-blocking therapy, HER2-blocking drugs and chemotherapy) which work on the whole body.

Common Places Breast Cancer Can Spread

When a cancer diagnosis is made, a determination of the stage of cancer needs to be made. This helps to inform treatment decisions and understand the prognosis for a particular patient.

The stage is based on the extent of the spread of the tumor, with different stages being assigned for different severities of spread.

Stage 1: Cancer is limited to the original site.

Stage 2: Cancer has begun to spread beyond the original site, but it is still localized.

Stage 3: Cancer affects nearby tissues or lymph nodes.

Stage 4: Cancer has spread to distant sites in the body.

Although only 6% of breast cancer cases are classified as stage 4 at the time of diagnosis, nearly one-third of all breast cancers eventually metastasize and become stage 4.

Here are 5 common places where breast cancer can spread:

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Will My Breast Cancer Spread To My Bones

A diagnosis of breast cancer triggers a cascade of worries. Am I going to die? is surely the most terrifying. A close second for many patients is fear of pain, particularly if cancer metastasizes to the bones. Bone mets can cause agonizing pain in several ways. A sudden break in a weakened bone can bring unexpected pain, and tumor growth affects nerves in and around the bone.

Many breast cancer patients are concerned about developing bone mets, especially since bone is a location that BCa cells commonly spread to. One way that researchers calculate this likelihood is by pooling data from previously published work. The more the studies, the more reliable the statistical results.

A 2017 literature review identified 156 breast cancer studies in which a percentage of women in each were diagnosed with bone mets either at the start of the study or during follow-upi. Here are key points:

  • 58% of patients who were initially diagnosed as already having metastatic disease had bone mets. It is not surprising that more than half of women whose BCa has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes at the time they are diagnosed already have bone mets, since bone is a preferred breast cancer location for spread.
  • Of patients who developed metastatic disease to any location during follow-up, an average of just over half had bone mets. This, too, is not unexpected again because of the preferential spread to bone.

Integrative Therapies For Metastatic Breast Cancer

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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:

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What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer In Bones

Metastasis describes the spread of cancer from where it started to another part of the body. This happens when cancer cells break from the primary tumor and enter the lymph system or bloodstream. From there, they can travel throughout the body and form new tumors.

Metastatic breast cancer in bones is not the same as bone cancer. Its made up of breast cells, not bone cells. Its also called stage 4 or advanced breast cancer.

A 2019 research review showed that bone is the most common site of breast cancer metastasis. says that for more than half of women with metastatic breast cancer, bones are the first site of metastasis. The bones most likely to be affected are:

  • long bones in your arms and legs

Other common sites of breast cancer metastasis include your liver and lungs.

Signs and symptoms vary depending on where the cancer has spread and how big the tumors are.

When Can Bone Metastases Occur

Bone metastases may be present when metastatic breast cancer is first diagnosed, or the cancer may spread to the bones later.

The bones are the first site of metastases for almost half of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer . For many of these women, the bones will be the only site of metastases .

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What Bones Do Breast Cancer Affect

Although metastatic breast cancer can potentially occur in any bone in the body, it most often affects the ribs, spine, pelvis and long bones in the arms and legs. Breast cancer that has spread to the bones may cause: Sudden bone pain, such as hip or back pain, which may feel similar to the discomfort associated with arthritis or exercise strain

How Long Does It Take Breast Cancer To Grow

What Are the Signs of Breast Cancer?

Every type of breast cancer varies based on individual factors and subtypes, says Dr. Roesch.

Different types of breast cancer tend to behave differently, and because every cancer is different and every person is too its hard to say exactly how quickly breast cancer can grow and spread. Still, experts understand that some types of breast cancer tend to be more aggressive and fast moving, while other types typically move slower.

Speed of breast cancer growth can be influenced by these factors:

Your cancer team will determine how likely or fast your breast cancer may spread based on your breast cancer subtype, stage and individual factors. Although breast cancer experts can hypothesis and estimate the speed of cancer growth, every breast cancer is different and distinctive to that person.

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What Causes A Swollen Rib

Breast cancer that has traveled to the liver may cause: 1 Pain or swelling under the ribs, in the midsection or near the right shoulder 2 Loss of appetite 3 Nausea and vomiting 4 Unexplained weight loss 5 Persistent hiccups 6 A yellowing of the eyes or skin 7 Confusion or drowsiness 8 Anemia 9 Overwhelming fatigue

Questions To Ask The Health Care Team About Cancer Metastasis

Consider asking your health care team the following questions. The first set of questions is about your risk of metastases, and the second set may be helpful if you’ve received a diagnosis of metastatic cancer.

  • Where does this type of cancer typically spread?

  • How likely is it that the cancer could come back and spread?

  • What are the signs and symptoms of metastasis that I should look out for?

  • How often should I see the doctor as part of my follow-up care?

  • If I am concerned about a new symptom or sign, who should I tell? How soon?

  • If I’m very worried about the cancer coming back and spreading, who can I talk with?

  • If I have been diagnosed with metastatic cancer, what treatment plan do you recommend?

  • Should I get a second opinion? Who would you recommend?

  • What are the goals of each treatment in the plan? Is it to eliminate the cancer, help me feel better, or both?

  • What clinical trials are open to me? How can I learn more about them?

  • What support services are available to me? To my family?

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Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Be Treated

When you are diagnosed with breast cancer , your healthcare team will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

If the original cancer is successfully treated, you will still need to be regularly monitored for any signs of cancer returning or spreading. This typically involves scheduled screenings such as mammograms, ultrasounds, and other tests.

When it comes to metastatic breast cancer, treatment is generally still possible, although it can be more challenging. Treatment will vary depending on the size, location, and stage of the new tumor, but it is important to remember that even if your cancer has spread, it is still usually treatable, especially if it is caught early.

If you have any questions, concerns, or worrying symptoms, it is always best to speak to your doctor for personalized advice and support.

Worried About Breast Cancer Spreading

Bone metastasis

Its natural to worry about breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

While its important to get any new and persistent symptoms checked, aches and pains in the bones can be due to ageing, arthritis or side effects of treatment for breast cancer. Being out of breath and a cough can be symptoms of a cold or flu-type illness. And many people experience tiredness and loss of appetite after cancer treatment.

Whatever your worry or concern, our free Helpline is here to offer support. Call 0808 800 6000.

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What Is Stage 4 Cancer

In many cases, doctors refer to metastatic cancer as stage 4 cancer. In people with breast cancer, a metastatic tumor develops when cancerous cells break away from the breast and come together in a different part of the body. The cells can spread to different areas of the body, depending on the type of cancer.

How Effective Are Treatments For Bone Metastases

Although current treatments for bone metastases are unable to completely remove all cancer cells, many women with bone metastases can live for many years with extremely good quality of life.

The effect of bone metastasis on your prognosis is individual and depends on what type of cancer you have, where it has spread to and how you respond to various treatments. The main aim of any treatment is to control pain and other symptoms so you can enjoy your day-to- day activities as much as possible.

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Medications For Mild Bone Pain

Bone pain often responds to heat, or to mild pain relievers such as ibuprofen , naproxen or acetaminophen .

Although you can get these medications without a prescription, check with your health care provider before taking them. For example, if you have a low blood count, or your kidneys are not functioning normally, or you have heart failure, your health care provider may advise you not to take ibuprofen or naproxen.

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How Do You Know If You Have Cancer In Your Spine

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Sometimes a fracture in your arms, legs, or spine is the first sign that your cancer has spread. You may break a bone when you fall, or incur what appears to be a trivial injury during your regular daily activities. The nature of the injury could be minor, and seem insufficient to fracture healthy bone. If fracture occurs, youll feel sudden, severe pain. Get immediate treatmentespecially if the pain strikes in your back, a sign of a broken bone in your spine.

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Tests Detect Tumors In Your Bones

Your doctor may check you for bone metastasis if you have these signs, or if you have certain risk factors, including larger tumors or later-stage cancer. Tools he or she may use to make the diagnosis include:

  • Imaging tests, including X-rays, bone scans, magnetic resonance imaging, and computed tomography scans
  • Blood tests to check for high calcium levels or other chemicals that indicate your cancer has spread
  • Urine tests, which can find substances that are released when bone is damaged
  • Biopsies, when your doctor takes a sample of your tissue and looks at it under a microscope

When your doctor tells you the stage of your breast cancer, he or she will use three letters: T , N , and M. The “M” category describes whether your cancer has spread to distant parts of your body. If you have bone metastasis, your cancer is in stage M1.

How Does Breast Cancer Spread

Breast cancer can invade and grow into the tissue surrounding your breast or it can travel to other parts of your body and form a new tumor there. Nearly all types of cancer have the ability to spread , but whether or not it will spread is often linked to what type of breast cancer you have.

Breast cancer can spread in three ways:

  • It can spread from your breast into surrounding areas .
  • Cancer cells can travel through the bloodstream to other areas of your body.
  • Cancer cells can also move through your lymphatic system to other parts of your body.

Every cancer is different, but the type of breast cancer you have typically plays a role in how aggressive or slow moving it is and where its most likely to spread, says Dr. Roesch.

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Take Steps To Prevent Falls And Fractures

When your bones are weakened by cancer, minor accidents can be serious. Talk with your doctor about the best way to prevent falls and reduce your risk of fractures. Your strategy should include:

  • Wearing supportive, low-heeled shoes, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Installing safety equipment in your home, including handrails near stairs and in the bathroom.
  • Being careful outdoors in wet or icy weather. Use a cane or walker if you need extra stability. Consider services that will deliver items like groceries and prescriptions so you don’t have to brave the elements.

Positron Emission Tomography Scan

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This is another nuclear scanning technique sometimes used to detect metastases by creating a 3-dimensional picture of your body, with the use of radio waves that show up after an injection. PET scans are not routinely used to look for bone metastases. If your doctor recommends that you have a PET scan you should speak to your doctor about possible costs as it is not usually covered by Medicare.

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Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In The Bones

Although metastatic breast cancer can potentially occur in any bone in the body, it most often affects the ribs, spine, pelvis and long bones in the arms and legs. Breast cancer that has spread to the bones may cause:

  • Sudden bone pain, such as hip or back pain, which may feel similar to the discomfort associated with arthritis or exercise strain but is persistent or progressively worse even with rest or conservative measures
  • An increased risk of bone fractures that result from minimal trauma, such as a minor fall
  • An elevated level of calcium in the blood, which can lead to fatigue, nausea, dehydration and loss of appetite
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in an arm or leg

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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Managing Your Feelings About Metastatic Breast Cancer

Regardless of whether metastatic breast cancer is a first diagnosis or a recurrence, its normal for people to feel angry, scared, stressed, outraged, depressed, or calm. You may question the treatments youve had, feel mad at your doctors, or be prepared to deal with the diagnosis in a matter-of-fact way. There is no right or wrong way to come to terms with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis.

Many people find it helps to concentrate on understanding the diagnosis, learning all they can about different treatment options, and taking the time to get second opinions. Information can give people a feeling of control, which can help them manage any fears they may have.

Loss of control is a huge issue for women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, said Musa Mayer, author of Advanced Breast Cancer: A Guide to Living with Metastatic Disease and patient advocate. The process of gathering information and learning about the disease and treatment can be very stabilizing and help women feel more in control.

Some people with metastatic breast cancer may feel the urge to withdraw from social connection. But in interviews and publications, many people who are living with metastatic breast cancer have said that distancing themselves from loved ones wasnt very helpful in dealing with their diagnosis.

Still, its important to remember that everyone deals with fear and stress differently. Coming to terms with the diagnosis takes time and is different for everyone.


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