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What Are The Signs That Breast Cancer Has Spread

Invasive Breast Cancer Symptoms

How to spot 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

Where Does Breast Cancer Spread To

Breast cancer cells seem to prefer to settle into:-

  • long bones in the arms and legs
  • ribs
  • skull

With an osteolytic metastasis, the cancer kind of eats away at the bone, creating holes.

With an osteoblastic bone metastasis, the bone mineral density actually increases, but this can cause the bones to fracture more easily. This requires a little more explanation. Breast cancer metastases tend to be lytic when they are untreated, and then they become densely sclerotic as they respond to treatment.

Even if no treatment is given yet, an osteoblastic metastasis from breast cancer generally indicates that the persons own body is trying to fight cancer with some success.

A CT scan may also be used to check for metastasis to the lungs or liver. A CT scan is essentially an X-ray linked to a computer. The breast cancer doctor injects a contrast dye agent into the bloodstream and this makes any cancer cells in the liver and chest easier to see.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Symptoms

Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer rarely causes breast lumps and may not appear on a mammogram. Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms include:

  • Red, swollen, itchy breast that is tender to the touch
  • The surface of the breast may take on a ridged or pitted appearance, similar to an orange peel
  • Heaviness, burning, or aching in one breast
  • One breast is visibly larger than the other
  • Inverted nipple
  • No mass is felt with a breast self-exam
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm and/or above the collarbone
  • Symptoms unresolved after a course of antibiotics

Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer usually does not cause a distinct lump in the breast. Therefore, a breast self-exam, clinical breast exam, or even a mammogram may not detect inflammatory breast cancer. Ultrasounds may also miss inflammatory breast cancer. However, the changes to the surface of the breast caused by inflammatory breast cancer can be seen with the naked eye.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer can develop rapidly, and the disease can progress quickly. Any sudden changes in the texture or appearance of the breast should be reported to your doctor immediately.

For women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, redness, swelling, itchiness and soreness are often signs of a breast infection such as mastitis, which is treatable with antibiotics. If you are not pregnant or nursing and you develop these symptoms, your doctor should test for inflammatory breast cancer.

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Local Or Regional Treatments

The systemic therapies described above are the main treatments for metastatic breast cancer.

However, local and regional treatments, including radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy can also be used to help treat metastatic cancer in a specific part of the body, but theyre unlikely to completely eradicate it.

Usually, these therapies are used to treat symptoms or complications of the cancer.

For example, radiation and surgery may be used in these situations:

  • when a breast tumor causes an open wound in the breast
  • to treat a small number of metastases in a specific area, such as the brain
  • to help prevent bone fractures
  • when a tumor is pressing on the spinal cord
  • to treat a blood vessel blockage in the liver
  • to provide pain relief or to relieve other symptoms

Chemotherapy can also be delivered directly to a certain area , to help relieve symptoms or complications.

Types Of Breast Cancer

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There are several different types of breast cancer, which develop in different parts of the breast.

Breast cancer is often divided into either:

  • non-invasive breast cancer found in the ducts of the breast which has not spread into the breast tissue surrounding the ducts. Non-invasive breast cancer is usually found during a mammogram and rarely shows as a breast lump.
  • invasive breast cancer where the cancer cells have spread through the lining of the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue. This is the most common type of breast cancer.

Other, less common types of breast cancer include:

  • invasive lobular breast cancer
  • inflammatory breast cancer

It’s possible for breast cancer to spread to other parts of the body, usually through the blood or the axillary lymph nodes. These are small lymphatic glands that filter bacteria and cells from the mammary gland.

If this happens, it’s known as secondary, or metastatic, breast cancer.

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What Are Lymph Nodes

You have hundreds of lymph nodes throughout your body. Your lymph nodes are part of your lymphatic system, which, in turn, is part of your immune system.

Lymph nodes are little bean-shaped structures that contain immune cells that help fight infection. Theyre connected by a system of lymph vessels that carry fluid throughout your body. As fluid passes through your lymph nodes, they filter out harmful substances.

Cancer spreads when cancer cells break away from the primary tumor. In breast cancer, these cells are most likely to reach the lymph nodes closest to the affected breast.

Usually, these lymph nodes are under the arm, but there are also clusters of lymph nodes near the collarbone and breastbone.

The ones that are closest to your breast are called sentinel lymph nodes. The nodes under your armpit are called axillary lymph nodes.

Even if cancer has reached nearby lymph nodes, it doesnt mean it has spread to other areas. But cancer that reaches the lymph system or bloodstream has a greater potential to travel to other parts of the body.

Breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes may be treated more aggressively than if it hadnt reached these nodes.

The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer that hasnt reached nearby lymph nodes is 99 percent versus 86 percent when it has.

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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How Does Breast Cancer Start

Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast grow out of control. Different kinds of breast cells develop into different types of breast cancer. Most breast cancers begin in the breast ducts or lobules . These are known respectively as invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Other less common types of breast cancer include inflammatory breast cancer and ductal carcinoma in situ.

Though breast cancer is most common in women, men can develop it as well. A mans lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,620 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

Early Signs of Breast Cancer

Breast pain can be a symptom of cancer. If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.

Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.

Some warning signs of breast cancer are

  • New lump in the breast or underarm .
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.

Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.

If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.

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If Your Breast Cancer Has Spread

Even if your breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body, it does not necessarily mean its not treatable. If the cancer cannot be removed, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms, improve quality of life and extend survival.

Some women live with breast cancer for several years as they learn to adjust and accept that theyll be on treatment for an indefinite period of time, explains Dr. Roesch. Your cancer team will help you learn and cope with what you can expect on this journey.

Breast Cancer Types And Symptoms

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

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How Is A Local Recurrence After Lumpectomy Diagnosed

After a diagnosis of early stage breast cancer, any remaining breast tissue should be evaluated annually with scans .

Most local recurrences within the breast after lumpectomy are detected on routine annual breast imaging, which usually takes the form of mammography and ultrasound, and on occasions MRI.

If you have a local recurrence or new primary breast cancer, you may find symptoms similar to an initial breast cancer. This includes:

  • A new lump in the breast, armpit area or around the collarbone
  • A change in breast size or shape
  • Changes to the nipple, such as sores or crusting, an ulcer or inverted nipple
  • Clear or bloody nipple discharge
  • Changes to the skin including redness, puckering or dimpling
  • Breast tenderness or pain

Once a local recurrence has been diagnosed, we do tests to see whether there are signs of cancer elsewhere in the body. These may include a chest X-ray, CT scan, bone scan or PET scan, and blood tests , then we have to figure out how best to treat the tumour in the breast. Usually in these cases we do a mastectomy, as the prior less drastic surgery and radiation didnt take care of it.

The Breast Cancer Centers At Ctca

Where and How Does Breast Cancer Spread?

At the Breast Cancer Centers at each of our CTCA® hospitals, located across the nation, our cancer experts are devoted to a single missiontreating breast cancer patients with compassion and precision. Each patients care team is led by a medical oncologist and coordinated by a registered oncology nurse, who helps track the various appointments, follow up on tests and answer questions that come up along the way. Your care team also may include a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, pathologist and a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with advanced training in helping patients restore function and appearance. Fertility preservation and genetic testing are also available for qualifying patients who need them.

Our pathologists and oncologists are experienced and trained in tools designed to diagnose, stage and treat different types of breast cancer, from early-stage ductal carcinoma in situ to complex diseases such as triple-negative and inflammatory breast cancer. As part of our patient-centered care model, which is designed to help you keep strong during treatment, your multidisciplinary care team may recommend various evidence-informed supportive therapies, such as naturopathic support, psychosocial support, nutritional support, physical and occupational therapy and pain management. The entire team works together with a whole-person focus, which is at the heart of our centers dedication to personalized and comprehensive care.

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Early Signs That Cancer Is Spreading

While Blacks arent more at risk for breast cancer, they have a higher propensity for more advanced forms of the disease. That includes metastatic breast cancer, where the tumors spread throughout the body. Studies also show that Black people can have higher rates of progression in the disease that leads to more complicated outcomes. The best way to curb this from happening is to know how to identify the early signs that your cancer is spreading.

Treatments For Bone Metastases

To understand how treatments for bone metastasis work, it can help to first understand how breast cancer cells behave in the bones.

A bone can function like a storage tank that traps and holds breast cancer cells. For some time, those cells may not cause any problems. Eventually, though, the cancer cells can hijack the normal, healthy process through which bone tissue regenerates itself.

Your bones are constantly breaking down and clearing away old cells and stimulating new cells to grow. Breast cancer cells in the bone can speed up the breakdown of normal bone tissue and weaken the bones. This is called osteolytic metastasis. Breast cancer cells also can overstimulate the production of new bone, leading to large, rigid growths. This is called osteoblastic metastasis.

Its possible to have osteolytic metastasis, osteoblastic metastasis, or a combination of both. Treatment helps slow or stop these bone metastasis cycles to reduce the risk of whats called a skeletal-related event .

  • hypercalcemia of malignancy, or an excessive amount of calcium in the blood

Its important to address any potential symptoms of bone metastases quickly. In addition to controlling the growth of the cancer, the goals of treatment for bone metastasis are to relieve pain, preserve function, and prevent SREs. Doctors can often stabilize bone metastases and help people manage it for long periods of time.

  • the cancer is growing quickly

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    Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms In The Liver:

    This can be a bit trickier to identify because the symptoms can be similar to other stomach and gastrointestinal issues, says Dr. Taiwo. Often a person will have abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, or even jaundice , depending on how much the cancer has spread in the liver. By the time that a patient tends to present with symptoms, they already have a fairly significant burden of disease, she saysmeaning that their cancer has already progressed to make them very sick.

    What Are The Early Signs Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

    What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer?

    Metastatic or advanced breast cancer describes a stage where the tumor starts to spread to other parts of the body. As such, the signs you might notice will depend on where the tumors are affecting.

    1. Chronic headaches If youre having headaches all the time that you cant explain, thats typically a sign that your cancer has spread to your brain. While its not the first place that could be affected, up to 15% of people who develop metastatic breast cancer will experience it.

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    Studies also show that this progression is more likely for people with the triple-negative or HER-2 positive forms of the disease. Other signs to look out for include seizures, double vision, vomiting, difficulty speaking, and changes in personality.

    2. Persistent bone pain This sign usually points to issues with your bones and studies show that it happens with about 50% of people with metastatic breast cancer. The areas most likely to be affected include the ribs, spine, pelvis, arms, and legs.

    Other signs you should know are constipation, the inability to move certain joints, numbness in the limbs, decreased alertness, fatigue, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, and dehydration.

    3. Shortness of breath People who are experiencing this sign may find that the tumors have spread to their lungs. These cases dont always have symptoms though so its recommended that you talk to your doctor about regular chest X-rays.

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    Lymphangiogenesis And Lymphatic Metastasis

    While the promoting effect of angiogenesis and vascularization of the tumor in the progression of the disease is well documented, there is little information with regard to lymphangiogenesis and its function in metastasis. Certain studies have indicated that the tumors are devoid of lymphatic vessels, while others have suggested that tumors invade and destroy lymphatic vessels . Furthermore, other studies have indicated that tumor cells may induce lymphangiogenesis, some form of lymphatic sprouting, or hyperplasia in close proximity to the periphery of the tumors . Therefore, the pertinent question is whether lymphangiogenesis is necessary for lymphatic metastasis. Although it is possible for lymphatic metastasis to occur via preexisting vessels that were incorporated into the tumors, there is evidence to suggest that increased lymphatic vessel density due to lymphangiogenesis significantly improves metastasis .

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