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What Are The Early Signs Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Survival Rates For Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Early-stage breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer: Being allies for each other

Inflammatory breast cancer is considered an aggressive cancer because it grows quickly, is more likely to have spread at the time its found, and is more likely to come back after treatment than other types of breast cancer. The outlook is generally not as good as it is for other types of breast cancer.

Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time after they were diagnosed. They cant tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific cancer, but they cant predict what will happen in any particular persons case. These statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor about how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.

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, it’s 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:

Early Signs And Symptoms Of Metastatic Cancer

Metastatic cancer is a tumor which spreads from an initial site to different locations within the body. Cancer cells can spread to closer lymph nodes, tissues, and organs. This is how metastatic cancer occurs and it generally happens at stage IV of cancer. Metastatic cancer is identified by the primary cancer name. For example, breast cancer that has been spread to the lungs is called metastatic breast cancer. The cancer cells in the lungs will have the same features as that of breast cancer.

How it spreadsThe disease is dangerous because of its ability to spread to different parts of the body. The cancer cell multiplies at the primary location and invades nearby tissues and moves through blood vessels or lymph nodes to the other parts. The most common parts where cancer is spread are the lungs, liver, and brain. Breast cancer is spread to the bone, brain, liver, or lung where it reflects the metastasis breast cancer signs.

Sign and symptoms of metastatic cancerThere are no early signs of metastatic cancer. However, when they do appear, they depend on the location of the tumor. Some of the most common symptoms that are related to the lungs, liver, brain, and bones are:

Metastasis breast cancer occurs after several years of primary cancer and may be diagnosed at the initial stage. There are no major metastatic breast cancer signs. Some common symptoms include:

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Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluids and fights infection.

The most common symptom if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes is that they feel hard or swollen. You might have any of the following symptoms if your cancer has spread to the lymph nodes:

  • a lump or swelling under your armpit
  • swelling in your arm or hand
  • a lump or swelling in your breast bone or collar bone area

One of the first places breast cancer can spread to is the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer. This is not a secondary cancer.

Life Expectancy For Brain Metastases

Signs and symptoms of metastatic breast cancer

Life expectancy in patients with brain metastases depends upon the variety of factors. It depends upon the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. It also depends upon the type of primary cancer and its spread in other body parts. The life expectancy also depends upon the number of brain metastatic sites.

The complications related to brain metastases further depends upon the neurological damage due to tumor. Although various treatments are available for the management of brain metastases but none of the treatment completely cure the disease due to various reasons. Chemotherapy is rarely effective due to the fact that most of the chemotherapeutic drugs unable to cross the blood brain barrier at required concentration. Surgery of brain tumor is highly complicated and requires precision. Also, the patient and relative fears with surgery due to significant risk involved. Even if the risk of brain surgery is taken, most of the times the tumor cannot be completely removed due to its inaccessibility.

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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.

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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Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Metastasis To Liver

Metastatic breast cancer may grow silently in the body while you are completely unaware. Early on in metastatic liver cancer there might not be any signs or symptoms to alert you. As the cancer grows, you may experience liver swelling. This may cause the following symptoms:

  • Bloating of your abdomen
  • Mass on upper right abdomen
  • Fever, chills, sweats
  • Confused thinking

Knowing the early symptoms can help you find and treat breast cancer that has metastasized to the liver early on and slow the progression of the disease.

Things Early Stage Breast Cancer Patients Should Know About Metastatic Breast Cancer Warning Signs

Quick Guide on Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms and Side Effects

Susan G. Komen recently talked with Teri Pollastro, who has been living with metastatic breast cancer since 2003. Pollastro, a Susan G. Komen Advocate in Science, shares her experience going through early stage breast cancer, having a recurrence, and what developments shes the most excited about in breast cancer care.

Helpful definitions:

Liquid biopsy: a blood test the looks for cancer cells or pieces of DNA from cancer cells that are circulating in the blood.

Komen: We talk a lot about the warning signs of breast cancer and the importance of knowing what is normal. Did you notice any signs of a recurrence or metastasis?

Pollastro: I was a young mom with small children and I just totally dismissed that I was losing weight. At the end of the day, I remember thinking, Gosh, did I eat today? I love to eat, so that should have been a cause for some concern for me.

I had more fatigue than was probably normal. Again, I just attributed it to my having young children. My breast cancer metastasized to my liver, and by the time I would have had glaring symptoms, it may have been too late for my liver to metabolize the chemotherapy.

Komen: Do you have any advice for early stage breast cancer patients about the warning signs of metastatic breast cancer?

Komen: Is there anything on the horizon in breast cancer care that makes you excited?

Komen: How could a liquid biopsy improve your quality of life?

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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.

Other Symptoms And Signs Of Metastasis

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Fatigue

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. This may 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.

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Thick Area Around The Breast

Yet another one of the factors that pose as the early signs of breast cancer is the feeling of a thick area around the breast. If you have a spot around your breast that does feel less squishy and instead feels tight and dense, it is possible a sign of breast cancer.

The thickening of the breast tissues is often common during menstruation or even if you are breastfeeding. The problem arises if the condition is persistent and doesnt go away. If you find that instead of healing, the same is getting bigger and spreading around, it is possible that the same could be a sign of breast cancer.

This thick presence is mainly because of the accumulation of the cancer cells which then on block the circulation around the breasts. It is quite different from the hard lump that many people often tend to confuse this with.

Integrative Therapies For Metastatic Breast Cancer

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:

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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.

Invasive Breast Cancer Symptoms

Most breast cancers start in the ducts, or the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, or in the lobules, the little clusters of sacs where breast milk is made. Invasive breast cancer refers to breast cancer that spreads from the original site to other areas of the breast, the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. In these cancers that form in the ducts or lobules, invasive ductal carcinoma or invasive lobular carcinoma , the cancer spreads from the ducts or lobules to other tissue. Depending on the stage, you may notice symptoms.

Invasive breast cancer symptoms may include:

  • A lump or mass in the breast
  • Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes

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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 Will Hospice Help

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

Many people are amazed at the help available when hospice is instituted. In addition to care from the team, hospice most often provides a hospital bed, oxygen, and any equipment or medications needed. This can save a lot of running around for your family and make you as comfortable as possible.

Many people want to spend their last days at home, surrounded by loved ones. With hospice care, the police do not need to be called, as they typically do with any unattended death. Your family can spend time with you until they wish to call the funeral home.

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Metastatic Breast Cancer Blood Tests

Different blood tests may be used to detect breast cancer:

  • The CA 27.29 blood test measures the level of a protein called the CA 27.29 antigen. In theory, the level rises as there is more breast cancer in the body. This test can, in some patients, help determine if cancer is growing in the body, or whether treatments are working. Similar tests include the CA-15-3 and CEA.
  • Circulating tumor cells may also be measured through a blood test. CTCs are extremely rare in healthy individuals and patients with nonmalignant diseases but are often present in people with metastatic cancer. Some clinical studies indicate the assessment of CTCs can assist doctors in monitoring and predicting cancer progression and in evaluating a patients response to therapy. CTC testing and use is still in the experimental stage.

For more detailed information on MBC treatment and resources, download or order a free copy of our Metastatic Navigator.

Where Can Breast Cancer Spread

The most common places for breast cancer to spread to are the lymph nodes, bone, liver, lungs and brain. The symptoms you may experience will depend on where in the body the cancer has spread to. You might not have all of the symptoms mentioned here.

Remember other conditions can cause these symptoms. They don’t necessarily mean that you have cancer that has spread. But if you have symptoms that you are worried about, discuss them with your GP, cancer specialist, or breast care nurse so that you can be checked.

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Outlook Once Cancer Has Spread To The Bones

The research on cancer metastasis is rapidly growing. As researchers better understand the mechanisms of bone metastasis, new drugs and other treatments are being developed. These target particular processes in cells involved in how the cancer cells invade and grow in bones.

The use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs is very encouraging. These tiny particles are able to deliver drugs to the bone with minimal toxicity to the person with cancer.

Rapidly treating bone metastasis can lead to a

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