Why Does Metastatic Breast Cancer Cause Tiredness
Any cancer can change the normal protein of the body. Similarly, breast cancer can do that process. When you do not know breast cancer is growing inside your body, you might think this is normal fatigue.
The excessive stress on body cells put by the cancer cells causes cell damage. Then your body will not work as normal. That is why you feel tired even when you are at rest or when you are doing even a simple task.
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, MD, 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, Arent you on chemo? And I worked with this woman for a number of years, she was not a stranger!
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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Reduce Your Risk Of Breast Cancer With Early Detection And Prevention
When it comes to cancer, early detection is important, but so is reducing your risk. There are several healthy lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Stay lean after menopause. Keep a healthy weight and a low amount of body fat. Eating a healthy diet can help.
Get active and sit less. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. Do strength-training exercises at least two days a week.
Avoid alcohol. If you drink, limit yourself to one drink per day if you are a woman, and two drinks per day if you are a man.
Choose to breastfeed. Try to breastfeed exclusively for six months after giving birth, and continue even when other foods are introduced.
Manage hormones naturally. If you are going through menopause and trying to control the symptoms, try non-hormonal methods before turning to hormone replacement therapy.
In addition to making healthy lifestyle choices, get regular breast cancer screening exams. Screening exams can detect cancer early, when its easiest to treat. Women age 25 to 39 should consider a clinical breast exam every one to three years. Women 40 and older should get an annual breast exam and a screening mammogram.
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.
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Other Symptoms And Signs Of Metastasis
Loss of appetite
If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you have been experiencing the symptom, in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.
If the doctor diagnoses metastatic breast cancer, relieving symptoms remains an important part of care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called “palliative care” or “supportive care.” It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.
The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.
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.
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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.
Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Bone Metastasis
A sudden, noticeable new pain is the most common symptom of breast cancer that has spread to the bone. The pain may come and go at first but can become constant over time. It can be hard to tell the difference between bone metastasis pain and arthritis pain or exercise strain. If the pain feels just as bad or even worse when you rest or lie down, it can be a sign of a problem. Its a good idea to see your doctor right away if it is bone metastasis, prompt treatment can prevent a fracture down the road.
Complications of bone metastasis are called skeletal-related events and can include the following:
Your doctor also may order a blood test to check for high levels of calcium or alkaline phosphatase , another substance that can be elevated because of bone metastasis.
In some cases, doctors may need to perform a biopsy to confirm a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. Using CT scans, a doctor can guide a small needle into the suspicious area and remove a sample of tissue to be examined in the lab.
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Survival Rates Of Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Unfortunately, cancer cells often become more difficult to treat and may develop drug resistance once they spread. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare , the 5-year survival rate for women whose breast cancer is metastatic at first diagnosis is 32%, compared to the 91% on average for all breast cancer patients.
Factors affecting survival rate of metastatic breast cancer
Survival rates can provide an estimate of what percentage of patients with the same stage of breast cancer are still alive after a certain period of time . However, they cannot predict how long any specific individual with breast cancer will live. The length of survival time for people with metastatic breast cancer can vary significantly from person to person, but there are a number of factors which can influence this including:
- Response to treatment
- The extent and location of metastases
- The presence of other health issues not related to cancer
- The specific subtype of breast cancer . This is very important, as some types of cancer can be more aggressive than others and respond differently to treatment.
How Breast Cancer Spreads
Cancer cells can travel from your breast to other organs through your lymph system or bloodstream. Often, breast cancer spreads when it gets into the lymph nodes under your arms . From there, it enters the lymphatic system, a collection of nodes and vessels that are part of your body’s immune system.
Once the cancer has reached other organs, it forms new tumors.
Metastatic breast cancer can also start months or years after you’ve finished treatment for an earlier-stage cancer. This is called a distant recurrence.
Treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are good at removing or killing cancer cells. But sometimes, they can leave a few cancer cells behind. Even a single cancer cell can grow into a new tumor that spreads to other parts of your body.
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Risk Factors For Brain Metastasis
According to a 2020 review , the risk factors for brain metastasis are similar to the general risk factors for metastatic breast cancer. These include having:
- a tumor with a high histological grade, which means that the cells look more irregular under a microscope and may be more likely to grow and spread quickly
- breast cancer thats already spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes
- a breast cancer diagnosis at an early age
If youve received a breast cancer diagnosis, remember that having any of the above risk factors doesnt mean that youll certainly develop brain metastasis. It means youre at an elevated risk compared with others without risk factors.
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:
back, bone, or joint pain that does not go away
difficulty urinating , which can be a sign that the cancer is pinching nerves in your back
numbness or weakness anywhere in your body
shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
abdominal bloating, pain, or tenderness
constant nausea, vomiting, or weight loss
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.
A biopsy may be done to determine these factors that can influence your treatment, which will be listed in your pathology report. Learn more about Understanding Your Pathology Report.
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How Is Brain Metastasis Diagnosed
If your symptoms suggest the presence of brain metastasis, your doctor can use a variety of tests to make a diagnosis.
Initially, blood tests will be ordered to get an idea of your overall health and the function of various organs. These can include:
- a metabolic panel, which can assess liver and kidney function as well as levels of electrolytes in the blood
- a complete blood count, which measures the levels of different blood cells
- tests for breast cancer tumor markers, which are proteins that can be produced by breast cancer cells
Your doctor can use a head MRI to confirm the diagnosis of brain metastasis. This will typically be done with a contrast solution thats given via an intravenous line. Using a contrast solution can help to make the images from the MRI clearer.
The treatment thats recommended for brain metastasis can depend on a few factors, including:
- how many metastases are present in the brain
- where in the brain the metastases are located
- the HER2-positive and ER-positive status of your cancer
- whether your cancer has also metastasized to other areas of the body
- if certain genetic changes are present in your cancer
- your age and overall health
- your personal preferences
There are several potential treatment options for brain metastasis. Doctors generally divide these treatments into two categories: local and systemic.
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.
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What Is The Treatment For Advanced Breast Cancer
Despite the fact that metastatic breast cancer is not currently curable,there are many treatments available. The aim of treatment is to prolong life and to preserve quality of life by relieving symptoms. The treatment for secondary breast cancer is different for everyone as it is tailored to your individual needs. It is also dependent on where the cancer is in your body and on the characteristics of the cancer cells . The team looking after you will discuss everything with you and select the best treatment for you to manage the disease but will also consider your quality of life.
Treatments may include some that you have had before :
- Hormone therapy:If the cancer is hormone receptor positive, hormonal therapy is used first, even if you have been previously treated with this. Other newer agents such as everolimus can be used in conjunction with hormone treatment for post- menopausal women although some are not currently funded in New Zealand. Pre-menopausal women are usually treated with ovarian suppression to stop the ovaries producing hormones. Hormone therapy is continued for as long as it is effective.
Some people may have a combination of these treatments while others may have only one. Your doctor will explain this in detail before you start any treatment.
You may be able to participate in a clinical trial of a new medication. Ask your oncologist if there are any trials which are appropriate for you and check our clinical trials database.
Dimples On The Breast
Yet another one of the common and warning signs of breast cancer is the presence of dimpled skin around the breast region. It is very common for you to experience dimpling around the skin when you wear tight clothes and such.
But, the problem does arise when the condition is persistent and doesnt go away. If you find that the dimple in the skin around the breast is persistent and doesnt go away, it is best to consult a doctor to get the same checked out.
This is predominantly caused when the tumor inside the breast causes a pull in the skin, thus leaving behind an indent in that area. If you are confused as to how you will detect the same, it can easily be done when you do lift your hands above your head and check whether the whole skin of the breast rides up and down with the motion of your arms.
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Nipple And Breast Pain
Normally breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer doesnt show any symptoms or pains at earlier stages.
However, some patients may ignore and mistake the pain in the nipple area or entire breast. You should not avoid paying attention to those minor changes in your body.
Because of the silent damage to the cells, it may generate pain in the following regions.
- Around your nipple
- Area of breast
- Entire breast
You may feel the pain differently. Some patients have said they feel a burning sensation with this pain. This may often be inflammatory breast cancer.