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What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms

Survival Rates Of Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Quick Guide on Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms and Side Effects

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.

Tamoxifen And Other Anti

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For estrogen-receptor-positive metastatic breast carcinoma the first line of therapy is often tamoxifen or another anti-estrogen drug unless there are liver metastases, significant lung involvement, rapidly progressive disease or severe symptoms requiring immediate palliation.

Myth #: The Mental And Emotional Experience Of People With Mbc Is The Same As That Of Earlier

People with MBC report hearing comments such as, At least you have a good type of cancer, Arent you glad so much research on breast cancer has been done?, Fortunately you have so many options. These might comfort people with early-stage breast cancer, who can look forward to one day finishing treatment and moving on but people with MBC dont have that luxury. They know they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives. They also know that their life is likely to be shorter than theyd planned.

Mentally and emotionally, people with MBC have a completely different experience. For them, the whole ringing the bell idea does not work, says Dr. Gupta. I have patients who are coming in once a week and have to plan their lives around their treatment. The whole pink brigade idea is very upsetting to them.

Fortunately, more and more people with MBC are speaking up and calling attention to how their experience differs from that of people with earlier-stage breast cancer. People with MBC live with cancer always in the background of their lives, but with new and emerging therapies, many are living longer and maintaining their quality of life.

Clearly, the experience of metastatic breast cancer is quite different from early-stage breast cancer. But there are so many patients who understand just what youre going through. Read more about Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and join our discussion forum for people with stage IV/metastatic disease.

References

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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.

Risks/chances Of Breast Cancer Metastasis To Liver

October 13th Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Day

There are a slight number of cases early in cancer diagnosis that already have breast cancer metastasis to the liver. The number totals around less than 5 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses. In cases of early breast cancer that is still only in breast tissue, risk increases depending on the person, health status, and time after cancer treatment.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer metastases, there will be some increased challenges in treating and slowing the progression. It depends on the stage of cancer, the treatment, and time since diagnosis.

Metastasis occurs when the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and hitches a ride into other organs. At first, the cancer goes into the lymph nodes near the armpit “axillary lymph nodes.” At this stage, there is a possibility of curing the cancer. If the cancer moves beyond the axillary lymph nodes, there is no cure but it is treatable.

Path of Breast Cancer Spreading to the Liver

Breast cancer spreading into your liver takes a certain path in stages. These are:

  • Invasion of Local Tissue

The cancer cells invade the local breast tissue and form tumors. The cells then grow into tissue around the breasts. It begins to take over all the healthy tissue in the area. The cancer moves outside of the breast tissue or “margins.”

  • Lymph Node Invasion
  • Circulation
  • Arrest and Invasion of Liver
  • Growth of Tumors
  • Growth of Blood Supply

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Metastatic Breast Cancer Scans

Diagnostic scans are performed to find out if you have MBC and to measure response to treatment or progression of metastatic tumors. No matter how many times you have been through a scan, there is often anxiety involved in either the process itself or waiting for results. This is normal.

The most typical scans are:

Bone Scans

Bone scans reveal if cancer has spread to the bones. In most MBC cases, metastases first occur in the bones. These scans look at the bones for hot spots that may reveal cancer. To conduct a bone scan, your healthcare provider injects dye, then waits a few hours for it to move through the bloodstream so it can be visible in the scan.

Chest X-Ray

A chest x-ray may reveal if breast cancer has spread to the lungs. Metastases in the lungs rarely cause pain, but they can cause shortness of breath or a cough that wont go away.

CT/CAT Scan

This scan provides a more-detailed x-ray of the body, usually in order to look for metastases in the brain, lungs and/or liver. Before the scan, you will either ingest a contrast dye and/or have it injected into a vein. The dye highlights specific areas of the body more clearly. A computer rotates around the body, creating a three-dimensional image.

Liver Scan

A liver scan involves having a contrast dye injected into the vein. The dye will collect in areas where there is activity that could indicate cancer growth.

PET Scan

PET CT Scan

Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms And Diagnosis

The most common breast cancer metastasis sites are the bones, the lungs, the brain, and the liver. The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can be very different depending on the location of the cancer:

  • constant back, bone, or joint pain
  • difficulty with urinating this can be a sign that the nerves in your back are being pinched by a cancer
  • numbness or weakness anywhere in your body
  • a constant dry cough
  • abdominal bloating, pain, or tenderness
  • constant nausea, vomiting, or weight loss
  • jaundice
  • severe headaches
  • vision problems
  • seizures
  • confusion

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Symptoms Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer may be different than those of early-stage breast cancer, but not always. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all.

You should always speak with your doctor if you experience any new signs or symptoms, but here are some of the most common signs that breast cancer has spread:

  • Bone pain or bone fractures due to tumor cells spreading to the bones or spinal cord
  • Headaches or dizziness when cancer has spread to the brain
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain, caused by lung cancer
  • Jaundice or stomach swelling

The symptoms of breast cancer metastasis may also vary depending on where in the body the cancer has spread. For example:

  • If the breast or chest wall is affected, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
  • If the cancer has spread to bones, symptoms may include pain, fractures or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
  • If the cancer has spread to the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain or fatigue.
  • If the cancer has spread to the liver, symptoms may include nausea, fatigue, swelling of the feet and hands or yellowing skin.
  • If cancer has spread to the central nervous system, which includes the brain or spinal cord, symptoms may include pain, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with and/or movement or seizures.

Treatment For Metastatic Cancer

What is Metastatic Breast Cancer? | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

There are treatments for most types of metastatic cancer. Often, the goal of treating metastatic cancer is to control it by stopping or slowing its growth. Some people can live for years with metastatic cancer that is well controlled. Other treatments may improve the quality of life by relieving symptoms. This type of care is called palliative care. It can be given at any point during treatment for cancer.

The treatment that you may have depends on your type of primary cancer, where it has spread, treatments youve had in the past, and your general health. To learn about treatment options, including clinical trials, find your type of cancer among the PDQ® Cancer Information Summaries for Adult Treatment and Pediatric Treatment.

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Treatments For Breast Cancer Metastasis To Liver

When you get the news that breast cancer metastasis to liver is incurable you may go through a range of emotions. When breast cancer is only in the breast tissue or the lymph nodes in your armpit a cure is highly possible. Once cancer spreads beyond those areas, it is no longer curable. However, you can still receive treatment to slow the progression of the cancer.

Doctors usually focus treatment on extending life and increasing the quality in which you live. When determining treatment, they look at the following:

  • Your past treatments
  • How the cancer cells look
  • Symptoms
  • Extent of metastasis
  • Hormone receptor sensitivity

If your cancer cells are positive for hormone receptor sensitivity, they can give you hormone therapy treatments to trick the cancer cells into dying.

They can also do more rounds of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink any tumors and slow their growth. These treatments may also help reduce your symptoms. New symptoms may develop from side-effects of the treatments.

The side-effects of treatments include nausea, vomiting, anemia, loss of appetite, weight loss, and lowered immune response. Side-effects are treatable in order to continue aggressive therapy.

Response to Treatment

To combat this from happening, doctors will monitor the response to treatments. If resistance occurs, they can switch drugs. They can also head this off by switching drugs in the very beginning of treatment for metastasis.

Prognosis

How Is Metastatic Breast Cancer In Bones Treated

Metastatic breast cancer in the bones is typically not curable. Instead, Dr. Taiwo says that doctors prioritize slowing the cancer’s growth and managing related symptoms. “The focus really is trying to extend life and maintain quality of life,” she says.

Metastatic breast cancer patients often receive traditional medications like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted treatments for their specific cancer type , says Dr. Tsarwhas. But there are also many bone-strengthening medications used to help people with bone metastases. Bone-targeted agents like denosumab, for example, are used to help slow bone degradation and reduce the risk of fractures, he says.

Localized radiation treatment can also help shrink bone cancer cells and reduce pain, adds Dr. Taiwo. This can hugely improve a patient’s quality of life, she says, as bone lesions can be incredibly painful.

“We also look for any bones that might have the potential to cause a problem in terms of a fracture,” says Dr. Lin. In those cases, she says doctors often send people to orthopedic surgeons for preventative surgeries to help stabilize bones. For example, surgeons can use medical-grade bone cement to seal and support existing fractures, or recommend joint-replacement surgery to ensure a person has pain-free mobility.

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Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer

When cancer comes back or is found in other parts of the body, it can be very upsetting for you, your family, and other loved ones. In this section, you can read about ways to live with metastatic breast cancer, manage feelings, get support, and talk to family and friends.

Myth #: Metastatic Breast Cancer Requires More Aggressive Treatment Than Earlier

Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer

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, M.D., 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, Aren’t you on chemo? And I worked with this woman for a number of years, she was not a stranger!

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The Breast Cancer Centers At Ctca

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.

Relieving Symptoms Of Advanced Breast Cancer

Treatment to relieve symptoms depends on where the cancer has spread. For example, pain from bone metastases may be treated with radiation therapy, drugs called bisphosphonates such as pamidronate or zoledronic acid , or the drug denosumab . For more, see our information about the treatment of bone metastases.

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Central Nervous System Metastases

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Clinically symptomatic CNS metastases are reported in 10â15% of patients with metastatic breast cancer in large autopsy studies, up to 40% of women who died of metastatic breast cancer were reported to have at least one brain metastasis. CNS metastases are often viewed by patients and doctors as a late complication of metastatic breast cancer for which few effective treatments exist. In most cases, CNS involvement occurs after metastatic dissemination to the bones, liver and/or lungs has already occurred for that reason, many patients already have refractory, terminal breast cancer by the time they are diagnosed with brain metastases. The diagnosis of brain metastases from breast cancer relies mainly on patient-reported symptoms and neuroimaging. The role of imaging in patients with suspected brain metastases is a very good modality to aid in diagnosis. According to Weil et al., 2005, neuroimaging such as Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging prove to be very effective in the diagnosis of brain and central nervous system metastases.

Symptoms of brain metastases from breast cancer are:

  • new-onset headache
  • cranial neuropathy, which may cause diplopia and Bell’s palsy
  • vomiting and nausea
  • deficits in sensation, motor function, and speech

Local Or Regional Treatments For Stage Iv Breast Cancer

Understanding Metastatic 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 wound in the breast
  • To treat a small number of metastases in a certain area, such as the brain
  • To help prevent bone fractures
  • When an area of cancer spread is pressing on the spinal cord
  • To treat a blood vessel blockage in the liver
  • To provide relief of pain or other symptoms

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 their goalwhether it is to try to cure the cancer or to prevent or treat symptoms.

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