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HomeWhat Does It Mean When Breast Cancer Has Metastasized

What Does It Mean When Breast Cancer Has Metastasized

Symptoms When Breast Cancer Has Spread To The Bones

Mom With Metastatic Breast Cancer Opens Up About Outliving Her Prognosis | TODAY Original

The main symptoms of breast cancer that has spread to bone are:

  • Pain particularly in the back, arms or legs, often described as gnawing which occurs when resting or sleeping, and may get worse when lying down especially at night
  • Fractures

Find out more about the symptoms of secondary breast cancer.

Other possible effects include:

Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Go Into Remission

Metastatic breast cancer may never go away completely. But treatment can control its spread. Cancer may even go into remission at some points. This means you have fewer signs and symptoms of cancer.

A treatment break may be considered in certain situations, including if remission occurs or if someone is experiencing intolerable side effects. A pause in treatment can help you feel your best and improve your quality of life.

What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells in the breast start to divide uncontrollably. A tumor is a mass or collection of these abnormal cells.

Metastasis refers to cancer cells that have spread to a new area of the body. In metastatic breast cancer, cells may spread to the:

  • Bones.
  • Liver.
  • Lungs.

Healthcare providers name cancer based on its primary origin. That means breast cancer that spreads to other body parts is still considered breast cancer. The cancer cells are still breast cancer cells. Your care team will use breast cancer therapies, even if the cancer cells are in other areas.

Read Also: Type 3 Cancer

When Metastatic Cancer Can No Longer Be Controlled

If you have been told your cancer can no longer be controlled, you and your loved ones may want to discuss end-of-life care. Whether or not you choose to continue treatment to shrink the cancer or control its growth, you can always receive palliative care to control the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Information on coping with and planning for end-of-life care is available in the Advanced Cancer section of this site.

Breast Cancer Subtypes Hormonal And Her2 Status

Metastatic Breast Cancer: What You Should Know

Although the term breast cancer is used in general, there are many different sub-types of breast cancers. The sub-types behave in different ways, with some responding better to treatments and some growing and spreading at faster rates.

Obviously, the sub-type of breast cancer affects survival rates.

There are 5 molecular types of breast cancer:-

  • Luminal A: This type of breast cancer is hormone receptor-positive and HER2 negative. Furthermore, Luminal A cancers tend to be low-grade and slow growing. These tumors respond well to hormone therapy.
  • Luminal B: These tumors are ER+ and can be HER+ or HER-. Luminal B cancers tend to grow faster, be of a higher grade and larger tumor size.
  • Triple negative/basal-like. As the name suggests these tumors are ER- PR- and HER-. Triple-negative breast cancers have a poorer prognosis and do not respond as well to treatment.
  • HER2-enriched: ER- PR- and HER2 positive. These tumors used to have a poor prognosis but since targeted therapy survival rates have improved.
  • Normal-like: These cancers are hormone receptor positive and HER2 negative. Normal-like breast cancers have a good prognosis.
  • Also Check: Breast Cancer Staging Prognosis

    Box 1 How Rapid Autopsy Studies Can Inform On Metastatic Dissemination And Relapse

    Definitions

    • Rapid autopsy: rapid post-mortem collection, examination and biobanking of tissuesfresh, snap-frozen and fixedfrom deceased patients shortly after death.

    • Rapid autopsy cancer programme: coordinated effort among oncologists, pathologists and scientists aimed at collecting specimens from cancer patients within a post-mortem interval of 68h before key biological information within the tissues of interest is lost.

    Advantages

    • Multiregional biopsies: to conduct extensive, spatial sampling of tissuesprimary and metastatic, cancerous and normalfor in-depth, high-resolution multi-omics analysis.

    • Physiological model: to analyse DTCs in their natural metastatic niche.

    • to generate novel, ex vivo living patient-derived modelsautopsy-derived xenografts and organoids of metastatic tumours from sites that would otherwise be difficult to sample for functional evaluation .

    • Cancer evolution: to study the phylogenetic relationship of each sampled site to each other and infer the complete clonal evolution of a neoplasm.

    • Dormancy: to examine why some DTCs lodged in certain organs of the human body become dormant for years to decades.

    • Drug resistance: to study why DTC spread across different sites responds differently to therapy, with some developing resistance and others remaining sensitive to treatment.

    • Recurrence: to understand why only some DTCs residing in certain sites of the human body give rise to active metastases, ultimately responsible for patients relapse.

    Breast Cancer Metastasis: Secondary Sites

    Over the years there have been significant improvements and advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Indeed, breast cancer is now considered to be a manageable disease.

    However, there are still over half a million deaths worldwide from breast cancer and over 90% of these women die of metastasis. Consequently, research into metastasis is of vital importance in overcoming deaths from metastatic breast cancers.

    Stage IV or metastatic breast cancer, as mentioned earlier, are cancer cells that have spread from the breast to distant sites around the body. Common secondary sites are:-

    • Bone: .
    • Lungs
    • Liver

    Also Check: Whats Stage 3 Cancer

    Alternative And Complementary Therapies

    Some patients with metastatic breast cancer opt to try alternative therapies that are claimed to achieve healing effects similar to scientifically-tested medical approaches, but lack scientific evidence to support those claims. Approaches that are considered alternative therapies when applied to cancer treatment include vitamin therapies, homeopathic treatments, extreme diets, chiropractic treatment and acupuncture.

    Some alternative treatments are harmful or even life-threatening. Amygdalin, an extract derived from apricot kernels, exposes the patient to cyanide. Bee venom can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. Severe dietary restrictions such as Macrobiotic diets can disrupt the bodyĆ¢s metabolism and cause dangerous weight loss. People should be aware that foods, vitamins, and other treatments may interfere with the effectiveness of surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. It is essential that patients work with their doctors and openly discuss possible effects of any treatment they are considering. Alternative and complementary therapies are not regulated by the U.S. federal government and may lack quality controls.

    What Does Metastasized Cancer Mean

    Breast Cancer Metastasis, When Can It Happen?

    In some situations, metastatic cancer can be cured, but most commonly, treatment does not cure the cancer. But doctors can treat it to slow its growth and reduce symptoms. It is possible to live for many months or years with certain types of cancer, even after the development of metastatic disease.

    Can you recover from metastatic cancer?

    In some situations, metastatic cancer can be cured, but most commonly, treatment does not cure the cancer. But doctors can treat it to slow its growth and reduce symptoms. It is possible to live for many months or years with certain types of cancer, even after the development of metastatic disease.

    What does it mean when cancer has metastasized? In metastasis, cancer cells break away from where they first formed , travel through the blood or lymph system, and form new tumors in other parts of the body. The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor.

    What stage is metastatic cancer?

    Metastatic cancer is commonly called stage IV cancer or advanced cancer. It occurs when cancer cells break off from the original tumor, spread through the bloodstream or lymph vessels to another part of the body, and form new tumors. Nearby lymph nodes are the most common place for cancer to metastasize.

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    Stage Ii Breast Cancer

    There are basically four sub-categories of breast cancer within the category of stage II. Breast tumors in the Stage II classification are:

    • A breast tumor that is 2cm in diameter or less. BUT the cancer cells have already spread to the lymph nodes.
    • OR a breast tumor that is larger than 5 cm but has not yet spread to the lymph nodes.
    • OR breast tumors in between 2 cm and 5 cm in diameter -whether there is evidence of spread to the lymph nodes or not.

    There are actually quite a number of specific subcategories and letters and numbers to indicate a more precise description of the breast cancer at Stage II. .

    In summary, stage II breast cancer is of intermediate size and threatening to spread. Without a doubt, staging for stage II breast cancers requires a thorough investigation of potential metastases.

    Survival Rates for Stage II Breast Cancer

    The average survival rate for stage II breast cancers is about 93% after five years and about 75% after 10 years. The rate of local recurrence is about 16% for stage II breast tumors. Furthermore, only about 16% of stage II breast cancers either have or will develop lymph node metastasis.

    See also our new up-to-date survival rates by stage OR our general survival rates for breast cancer

    A baseline bone scan is unlikely to detect bone metastasis with stage 2 tumors, but they are usually necessary just to be sure.

    Treatment for Stage II Breast Cancer

    What Is Advanced Cancer

    Advanced cancer is most often used to describe cancers that cannot be cured. This means cancers that wont totally go away and stay away completely with treatment. However, some types of advanced cancer can be controlled over a long period of time and are thought of as an ongoing illness.

    Even if advanced cancer cant be cured, treatment can sometimes:

    • Shrink the cancer
    • Help relieve symptoms
    • Help you live longer

    For some people, the cancer may already be advanced when they first learn they have the disease. For others, the cancer may not become advanced until years after it was first diagnosed.

    Advanced cancers can be locally advanced or metastatic.

    Locally advanced means that cancer has grown outside the body part it started in but has not yet spread to other parts of the body. For example, some cancers that start in the brain may be considered advanced because of their large size or closeness to important organs or blood vessels. This can make them life-threatening even though they havent spread to other parts of the body. But other locally advanced cancers, such as some prostate cancers, may be cured.

    Metastatic cancers have spread from where they started to other parts of the body. Cancers that have spread are often thought of as advanced when they cant be cured or controlled with treatment. Not all metastatic cancers are advanced cancers. Some cancers, such as testicular cancer, can spread to other parts of the body and still be very curable.

    Read Also: Hormone Induced Breast Cancer

    Why Is Metastatic Cancer Not Curable

    Metastatic cancer causes most cancer deaths, but exactly why it is so difficult to treat is not precisely understood. Metastatic tumors often acquire additional genetic changes from those in the primary tumors that spawned them, and these genetic characteristics may cause them to resist standard treatments.

    Why Cancer Cells Tend To Spread To The Parts Of The Body They Do

    Fresh onslaught against breast cancer

    Where a cancer starts is linked to where it will spread. Most cancer cells that break free from the primary tumor are carried in the blood or lymph system until they get trapped in the next downstream organ or set of lymph nodes. This explains why breast cancer often spreads to underarm lymph nodes, but rarely to lymph nodes in the belly. Likewise, there are many cancers that commonly spread to the lungs. This is because the heart pumps blood from the rest of the body through the lungs blood vessels before sending it elsewhere.

    Recommended Reading: Stage 3 Cancer Definition

    What Is Electrochemotherapy

    Electrochemotherapy combines a low dose of a chemotherapy drug with electrical impulses. Its given directly to the area being treated to relieve symptoms of skin metastases.

    Studies have shown that electrochemotherapy can:

    • help stop bleeding, broken skin and pain
    • reduce the size of skin metastases

    Using electrical impulses allows the chemotherapy to work in the treated areas only, with little or no effect in other areas. Electrochemotherapy wont treat any other areas of secondary breast cancer inside the body.

    How Common Is It

    About 155,000 women in the United States live with metastatic breast cancer. Men can have metastatic breast cancer too, but it’s rare.

    Only 6% to 10% of women with breast cancer are diagnosed at stage IV. About 20% to 30% of women are diagnosed with an early-stage breast cancer, and then the cancer spreads.

    Read Also: Melanoma Breast Cancer Symptoms

    Progression During Hormone Therapy

    For hormone receptor-positive cancers that were being treated with hormone therapy, switching to another type of hormone therapy sometimes helps. For example, if either letrozole or anastrozole were given, using exemestane, possibly with everolimus , may be an option. Another option might be using fulvestrant or a different aromatase inhibitor, along with a CDK inhibitor. If the cancer has a PIK3CA mutation and has grown while being treated with an aromatase inhibitor, fulvestrant with alpelisib might be considered. If the cancer is no longer responding to any hormone drugs, chemotherapy immunotherapy, or PARP inhibitors might be options depending on specific features of the cancer or any gene changes that might be present.

    What Are The Symptoms

    What Does Metastatic Breast Cancer Mean To You?

    When Newton John postponed her tour earlier this month, she cited a long-running issue with sciatica, noting on social media that she planned to take some time off to rest and deal this very painful condition.

    This week, a new post announced that her sciatica had turned out to be cancer. When cancer spreads to the bones in the spine, it can indeed cause back pain, as well as swelling and fractures.

    That doesnt mean that anyone with sudden back pain should think of cancer as a probable cause. Everyone is going to have back pain, just like everyone is going to have sore throats and chills and muscle aches, says Dr. Sardesai. But if youre a cancer survivor, its normal to jump to conclusions that your cancer might be coming back.

    Dr. Sardesai tells his patients that anytime they experience an unexplained symptom for longer than two weekslike back pain, shortness of breath, nausea, or loss of appetitethey should get it checked out. Im not saying its cancer, but at that point we want to investigate further to see if it might be related, he says.

    Read Also: Can Nipple Piercing Cause Cancer

    Recurrent Breast Cancer: Facts And Figures

    Breast cancer can return at any point after the initial diagnosis and treatment. This is one of the most anxiety-provoking factors for many women after breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

    There are 3 types of cancer recurrence:-

  • Localized: The cancer returns to the original site where it started.
  • Regional: The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, tissues or organs
  • Distant: The cancer has spread to distant body sites such as the bone, brain, liver or lungs.
  • It is very difficult to predict how many breast cancers of all stages recur, at local, regional and distant sites.

    Indeed, breast cancer incidence and mortality rates are documented over the years. However, data on most cancer registries do not document the incidence of recurrence.

    Furthermore, a local or regional recurrence does not have the same prognostic impact as distant metastasis. Even more difficult to handle, is that cancer can recur at any given point in time.

    Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms And Diagnosis

    The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can vary greatly depending on the location of the cancer. This section covers the symptoms of breast cancer that has spread to the bone, lung, brain, and liver, and the tests used to diagnose metastatic breast cancer.

    Bone Metastasis: Symptoms and DiagnosisThe most common symptom of breast cancer that has spread to the bone is a sudden, noticeable new pain. Breast cancer can spread to any bone, but most often spreads to the ribs, spine, pelvis, or the long bones in the arms and legs. Learn more.

    Lung Metastasis: Symptoms and DiagnosisWhen breast cancer moves into the lung, it often doesnt cause symptoms. If a lung metastasis does cause symptoms, they may include pain or discomfort in the lung, shortness of breath, persistent cough, and others. Learn more.

    Brain Metastasis: Symptoms and DiagnosisSymptoms of breast cancer that has spread to the brain can include headache, changes in speech or vision, memory problems, and others. Learn more.

    Liver Metastasis: Symptoms and DiagnosisWhen breast cancer spreads to the liver, it often doesnt cause symptoms. If a liver metastasis does cause symptoms, they can include pain or discomfort in the mid-section, fatigue and weakness, weight loss or poor appetite, fever, and others. Learn more.

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    What Investigations Are Necessary For Staging Breast Cancer

    Breast cancer staging almost always involves a bone scan, as breast cancer is highly prone to metastasize to the bones.

    During this test, medics inject a small amount of a radioactive substance into the bloodstream, where it eventually collects in the bones. A radiation scanner is then able to detect accumulations of tracer substance in the bones.

    If breast cancer spreads beyond the breast, 25% of the time it goes into bones first.

    What Is A Primary Tumor

    October 13th Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Day

    The primary tumor refers to the original breast tumor. So, any metastases are either secondary tumors, or simply metastatic breast cancer.

    Note, when breast cancer spreads to the bones, it is not bone cancer, it is metastatic breast cancer in the bones.

    Metastatic describes a breast cancer that has already spread to distant areas and organs of the body. Metastatic cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Furthermore, the most common sites for breast cancer to metastasize to are the:-

    • bones
    • liver
    • lungs.

    Once breast cancer is at this most advanced metastatic stage, the odds of completely curing the breast cancer are quite low. .

    The treatment of metastatic breast cancer, after a reasonable effort, will often focus on the quality of life and relieving symptoms rather than a cure.

    Also Check: Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Teenagers

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