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What Are Symptoms Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Types And Symptoms

What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer?

There are several kinds of breast cancer. Many of them share symptoms.

Symptoms of ductal carcinoma

This is the most common type of breast cancer. It begins in your ducts. About 1 in 5 new breast cancers are ductal carcinoma in situ . This means you have cancer in the cells that line your ducts, but it hasnât spread into nearby tissue.

You may not notice any symptoms of ductal carcinoma. It can also cause a breast lump or bloody discharge.

Symptoms of lobular carcinoma

This kind begins in the glands that make milk, called lobules. Itâs the second most common type of breast cancer. Symptoms include:

  • Fullness, thickening, or swelling in one area
  • Nipples that are flat or point inward

Symptoms of invasive breast cancer

Breast cancer thatâs spread from where it began into the tissues around it is called invasive or infiltrating. You may notice:

  • A lump in your breast or armpit. You might not be able to move it separately from your skin or move it at all.
  • One breast that looks different from the other
  • A rash or skin thatâs thick, red, or dimpled like an orange
  • Skin sores
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Muscle weakness

Symptoms of triple-negative breast cancer

Breast cancer is called triple-negative if it doesnât have receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone and doesnât make a lot of a protein called HER2. This kind tends to grow and spread faster than other types, and doctors treat it differently.

Symptoms of male breast cancer

  • A small, hard cyst

Emotional And Spiritual Care

End-of-life care also includes emotional, mental, and spiritual therapy. A personâs healthcare team may include social workers, counselors, mental health professionals, and religious or spiritual advisors.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, up to 40 percent of people with cancer experience serious mental distress. This may include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder .

Medications, therapy, religious or spiritual rituals, and support groups can help a person cope with mental health issues and stress during this difficult time.

Caregivers may also need help with stress, anxiety, and depression. The palliative care team can usually also provide support and advice to caregivers for their emotional needs.

TheBreast Cancer Healthline app provides people with access to an online breast cancer community, where users can connect with others and gain advice and support through group discussions.

Symptoms Of Metastasis May Vary Depending On Where The Cancer Has Spread To

Here are some symptoms that vary by locations commonly associated with breast cancer metastasis.

Metastasis in the bone may cause:

  • Severe, progressive pain
  • Bones that are more easily fractured or broken

Metastasis to the brain may cause:

  • Persistent, progressively worsening headache or pressure to the head
  • Vision disturbances
  • Behavioral changes or personality changes

Metastasis to the liver may cause:

  • Jaundice
  • Abnormally high enzymes in the liver
  • Abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting

Metastasis to the lungs may cause:

  • Chronic cough or inability to get a full breath
  • Abnormal chest X-ray
  • Chest pain
  • Other nonspecific systemic symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can include fatigue, weight loss, and poor appetite, but its important to remember these can also be caused by medication or depression.

If you notice these symptoms, be sure you talk with your physician. They could be important for getting the treatment you need.

Interested in learning more? i3Health is hosting an upcoming webinar Metastatic Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Applying Treatment Advances to Personalized Care. Learn more here.

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What Are The Systemic Symptoms Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

As with any cancer that has progressed throughout the body, there are some systemic, or full-body symptoms of metastatic breast cancer. However, because these symptoms also overlap with symptoms of many other health conditions, its best to consult with your doctor before jumping to any conclusions to ensure you get proper treatment.

In the case of metastatic breast cancer, these systemic symptoms are a result of your cancer cells starving your body of nutrients. When you have metastatic disease, the body is really competing with the cancer for survival, nutrition, and energy,Evelyn Toyin Taiwo, MD, hematologist and oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, tells Health.The body has to work a little bit harder than it normally does [to function. Here are some of the more common full-body symptoms of metastatic breast cancer:

What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic Sites and Symptoms of ILC

Metastasis is the process by which cancer cells spread. In the case of metastatic breast cancer, the cancer originated in breast tissue, then spread to other parts of the body.

Metastatic cancer is further described as local, regional or distant, depending on the location of the cancer cells in relation to the original tumor.

  • Localized metastatic breast cancer often means the breast cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • The more distant locations include the bones, lungs, skin, liver and brain, although its possible for other parts of the body to be affected.

Its important to remember that every cancer is unique and that your experience may not necessarily be the same as that of another breast cancer patient. With a personalized treatment plan, metastatic breast cancer is typically treatable. A recent National Cancer Institute study found that the number of U.S. women living longer with distant metastatic breast cancer is growing, thanks to advances in treatments.

Its also important to prepare yourself with information about the disease, its symptoms and how its detected and treated.

This article will cover:

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Understanding Advanced And Metastatic Cancer

If you or a loved one is told that you have advanced cancer, its very important to find out exactly what the doctor means. Some may use the term to describe metastatic cancer, while others might use it in other situations. Be sure you understand what the doctor is talking about and what it means for you.

Symptoms Of Her2+ Metastatic Breast Cancer

HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast and then spreads, or metastasizes, into other areas of the body, such as the lungs, liver, bones, or brain. HER2-positive means the cancer cells have more than a normal amount of HER2 proteins on the outside of the cells. These proteins signal the cells to continue to grow.This article will review the possible symptoms of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.

Verywell / Jessica Olah

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Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer

An advanced breast cancer diagnosis often elicits a flood of emotions: fear, confusion, sadness, anger and worry. You may wonder, Why me? You may think its unfair that this has happened to you. All of these emotions and feelings are normal, so take the time to process your thoughts, speak with your care team to understand your diagnosis, and connect with loved ones and close friends for support.

Over time, as the shock wears off, many patients find that they get on with their lives, adjusting to what some call their new normal. You may continue to work, enjoy life and spend time with family and friends, even if sometimes you have less energy than before.

Try to eat a nutritious diet to feel stronger and better tolerate treatments. Maintaining good nutrition may also help lower your risk of infection and provide you with more energy for enjoying life.

Light exercise may give your mind and body’s boost, helping you feel energized, especially if you spend time in the fresh air. Always seek medical advice before making any changes to your diet or exercise routines.

Metastatic Breast Cancer: Diagnosis And Treatment

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

Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that originated in the breast and has spread to other organ systems in the body. Women may have metastatic disease at the time of their initial diagnosis or in the months or years following a diagnosis of localized breast cancer. As is true with localized breast cancer, metastasis and its meaning to your health depend on many factors.

The following factors are important for making decisions on treatment:

  • Where the metastasis is
  • What symptoms you are experiencing
  • What prior treatments you have had
  • All of the information about your breast cancer’s biology

The most common sites of spread beyond local breast cancer are bone, lung, liver and brain.

Learning of a diagnosis of metastatic disease is often accompanied by fear, uncertainty and difficulty with treatment decision making. While we have no treatments guaranteed to cure metastatic breast cancer, many women live many years with courage, tenacity and hope, treating breast cancer as a chronic illness and responding variably to systemic therapies.

The team of doctors and health care providers at the UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center will work with you individually to address your personal medical concerns and to determine a treatment plan that meets your medical needs. In addition, the Breast Care Center and the UCSF Patient and Family Cancer Support Center offer support and wellness services to help you manage the emotional and lifestyle challenges that you may face.

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Why Does Metastatic Breast Cancer Happen

Most often, metastatic cancer occurs because treatment didnt destroy all the cancer cells. Sometimes, a few cells remain dormant, or are hidden and undetectable. Then, for reasons providers dont fully understand, the cells begin to grow and spread again.

De novo metastatic breast cancer means that at the time of initial diagnosis, the breast cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. In the absence of treatment, the cancer spreads.

There is nothing you can do to keep breast cancer from metastasizing. And metastatic breast cancer doesnt happen because of something you did.

Early Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer

Common symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in your breast or underarm that doesnât go away. This is often the first symptom of breast cancer. Your doctor can usually see a lump on a mammogram long before you can see or feel it.
  • Swelling in your armpit or near your collarbone. This could mean breast cancer has spread to lymph nodes in that area. Swelling may start before you feel a lump, so let your doctor know if you notice it.
  • Pain and tenderness, although lumps donât usually hurt. Some may cause a prickly feeling.
  • A flat or indented area on your breast. This could happen because of a tumor that you canât see or feel.
  • Breast changes such as a difference in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of your breast.
  • Changes in your nipple, like one that:
  • Pulls inward
  • Develops sores
  • Unusual nipple discharge. It could be clear, bloody, or another color.
  • A marble-like area under your skin that feels different from any other part of either breast.
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    Treatment Options For Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Treatment for metastatic breast cancer often is based on systemic therapies, which use drugs rather than surgery or radiation. Metastases treatments are designed to shrink tumors and slow their growth, help ease symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment may change, such as when one therapy stops working, or the side effects become too uncomfortable. Rather than having only one treatment, most patients undergo several treatments combined to help fight the cancer.

    The four broad categories of drug-based treatments are:

    How Can I Take Care Of Myself While Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Where Breast Cancer Spreads: Common Sites of Metastasis

    Living with metastatic breast cancer can be challenging. Your care team can help provide physical and emotional support. Talk to them about how you can:

    • Eat the most nutritious diet for your needs.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Get emotional support, including finding support groups.
    • Reach out for help from friends, family and loved ones.
    • Find mental health services.
    • Find complementary therapies.

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    Symptoms Of Secondary Breast Cancer

    Secondary breast cancer means that a cancer that began in the breast has spread to another part of the body. Secondary cancer can also be called advanced or metastatic cancer.

    It might not mean that you have secondary breast cancer if you have the symptoms described below. They can be caused by other conditions.

    Signs And Symptoms Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer may vary by location commonly associated with metastatic breast cancer. Some are listed below.

    Metastasis in the bone may cause:

    • Severe, progressive pain
    • Bones that are more easily fractured or broken

    Metastasis to the brain may cause:

    • Persistent, progressively worsening headache or pressure to the head
    • Vision disturbances
    • Behavioral changes or personality changes

    Metastasis to the liver may cause:

    • Jaundice
    • Abnormally high enzymes in the liver
    • Abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting

    Metastasis to the lungs may cause:

    • Chronic cough or inability to get a full breath
    • Abnormal chest X-ray
    • Chest pain
    • Other symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can include fatigue, weight loss, and poor appetite, but its important to remember these can also be caused by medication or depression.

    If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure you talk with your physician. By sharing your symptoms, it could be important for getting the treatment you need.

    The standard types of treatment for metastatic breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Discuss these treatments with your doctor to determine which is best for you.

    If you have been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and worry you may have a metastatic recurrence, there are prognostic tests that can help determine your risk of metastatic breast cancer.

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    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.

    How Does Metastatic Breast Cancer Develop

    Quick Guide on Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms and Side Effects

    In some women with breast cancer, cancer cells break away from the cancer in the breast. The cancer cells spread to other parts of the body in blood vessels or lymphatic vessels and form a new cancer deposit. This can happen before or after treatment for breast cancer.The original cancer in the breast is called the primary cancer. If breast cancer develops in another part of the body it is called a metastatic breast cancer or a metastasis.

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    Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment And Planning

    After a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, its helpful to take all the time you need to gather information and make decisions about your treatment. Learn about the medical specialists that may be involved in your care, treatment options, genetic testing, taking a break from treatment, and more.

    SurgeryDoctors sometimes recommend surgery for metastatic breast cancer in order, for example, to prevent broken bones or cancer cell blockages in the liver. Learn more.

    ChemotherapyChemotherapy is used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer to damage or destroy the cancer cells as much as possible. Learn more.

    Radiation TherapyYour doctor may suggest radiation therapy if youre having symptoms for reasons such as easing pain and controlling the cancer in a specific area. Learn more.

    Hormonal TherapyHormonal therapy medicines are used to help shrink or slow the growth of hormone-receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer. Learn more.

    Targeted TherapyTargeted therapies target specific characteristics of cancer cells, such as a protein that allows the cancer cells to grow in a rapid or abnormal way. Learn more.

    Local Treatments for Distant Areas of MetastasisLocal treatments are directed specifically to the new locations of the breast cancer such as the bones or liver. These treatments may be recommended if, for example, the metastatic breast cancer is causing pain. Learn more.

    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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    When To See A Doctor/go To The Hospital

    If any symptom that comes up feels like a medical emergency or seems life-threatening, it is important to seek medical help immediately.

    Symptoms that develop gradually and are persistent, without any improvement, should be discussed with your healthcare provider, so that a quick evaluation of the cause of the symptom can be discovered.

    Treatment Guidelines For Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Metastatic Breast Cancer Infographic

    Although the exact treatment for metastatic breast cancer varies from person to person, guidelines help ensure high-quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and agreement among experts.

    The National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American Society of Clinical Oncology are respected organizations that regularly review and update their guidelines.

    In addition, the National Cancer Institute has treatment overviews.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people with cancer and their caregivers get the seasonal flu shot.

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