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.
Risk Factors For Overall Recurrence
There are several risk factors that raise the risk of recurrence overall . These include:
- Tumor size: Larger tumors are more likely to recur than smaller ones both early and late.
- Positive lymph nodes: Tumors that have spread to lymph nodes are more likely to recur at any time than those that have not.
- Age at diagnosis: Breast cancer recurrence is more common in younger people.
- Treatments received and response to treatments: Both chemotherapy and hormonal therapy reduce the risk of recurrence in the first five years.
- Tumor grade: More aggressive tumors are more likely to recur than less aggressive tumors , especially in the first five years
There are also factors that do not appear to affect the risk of recurrence. Recurrence rates are the same for women who have a mastectomy or lumpectomy with radiation and are also the same for women who have a single vs. double mastectomy.
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.
You May Like: 3b Breast Cancer
Understanding Her2+ Status And Survival
Doctors use three markers to help define breast cancers and guide treatment. One of those is the HER2 protein. The other two are hormone receptors . When a cancer has none of these, doctors call it triple negative. Until recently, there wasnât much information about how these markers changed survival rates for breast cancer.
A recent study looked at the National Cancer Institute data to see if there were differences in survival for women based on these markers. The study shows there are. Overall, women who have HR+ and HER2- breast cancer do best. But in the later stages, those who have the HER2+ type have better survival rates than those with HER2-. Breast cancers that are triple negative have the lowest survival rates. The 4-year survival rates are as follows:
- HR+/HER2-: 92.5%
What Is Stage 2 Breast Cancer
Also known as invasive breast cancer, the tumor in this stage measures between 2 cm to 5 cm, or the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer. Stage 2 breast cancer indicates a slightly more advanced form of the disease. At this stage, the cancer cells have spread beyond the original location and into the surrounding breast tissue, and the tumor is larger than in stage 1 disease. However, stage 2 means the cancer has not spread to a distant part of the body.
At stage 2, a tumor may be detected during a breast self-exam as a hard lump within the breast. Breast self-exams and routine screening are always important and can often lead to early diagnosis, when the cancer is most treatable.
Stage 2 breast cancer is divided into two categories:
Stage 2A: One of the following is true:
- There is no tumor within the breast, but cancer has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, or
- The tumor in the breast is 2 cm or smaller and cancer has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, or
- The tumor in the breast measures 2 cm to 5 cm but cancer has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
Stage 2B: One of the following is true:
- The tumor measures 2 cm to 5 cm and cancer has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, or
- The tumor is larger than 5 cm but cancer has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
At stage 2, TNM designations help describe the extent of the disease. Most commonly, stage 2 breast cancer is described as:
Stage 2 breast cancer survival rate
Also Check: What Are The Side Effects Of Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Stem Cells And Dormant Cells
Breast cancer stem cells , a small number of cells with self-renewal and unlimited replication capabilities, have been shown in numerous cancer models to be involved in tumor development and metastatic dissemination. Moreover, the occurrence of BCSCs with the properties of stemness, EMT and drug resistibility, is the main cause for cancer recurrence and treatment failure . Multiple researches revealed that several signaling pathways, such as WNT/-catenin and Notch, contribute significantly to the development of BCSCs . Devon A et al. showed that early metastatic breast cancer cells had unique stem-like gene expression characteristics and prefer to proliferate and differentiate to produce advanced metastatic disease at the single-cell level . Additionally, BCSCs isolated from primary human breast cancers possess the advanced metastasis potential and the CD70+ subpopulations appear to preferentially mediate lung-specific metastasis by enhancing self-renewal potential .
Want To Learn More About Your Breast Cancer Treatment Options Were Here For You
Whether you just received your diagnosis or youre looking for new treatment options, were here to help.
If youve just been diagnosed with breast cancer, your next stop will be to meet with a nurse navigator or breast surgeon, depending on your initial diagnosis, and start building your treatment plan. We offer cancer care clinic locations across the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin, so get started by selecting a location to make an appointment at.
Recommended Reading: Symptoms Of Ductal Breast Cancer
Whats The Outlook For Metastatic Breast Cancer
The right treatment plan can improve survival for people with metastatic breast cancer. However, survival rates vary and are dependent on a number of factors including type/biology of the breast cancer, parts of the body involved and individual characteristics. About 1 in 3 women live at least five years after diagnosis. Some live 10 years or longer. Your care team will discuss your prognosis with you in more detail.
What Can I Expect While Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Your care team will monitor you every few months to check if the cancer is responding to treatment, and also to see if you are having any side effects. The process of restaging the cancer includes:
- History/physical exam.
- Blood tests.
- Imaging tests, including CTs and bone scan or PET scan.
Before your scans or tests, its normal to feel anxiety. It may help to bring a friend or family member to the appointment with you.
Recommended Reading: Can Nipple Piercing Cause Cancer
Am I Still At Risk Of Local Recurrence If I Have Had A Mastectomy
Yes. Local recurrence can also happen after a mastectomy, although the likelihood is usually low.
Some of the signs of local recurrence after mastectomy include
- A lump or raised bump in or under the skin, especially near the previous mastectomy scar
- Changes to the skin, including redness or thickening
After reconstruction a local recurrence can appear at the suture line of the flap or in front of the implant. When its in the skin itself, it is red and raised. Reconstruction rarely if ever hides a recurrence. With implants, the recurrences are in front of the implant. With a flap, the recurrences are not in the flap itself but along the edge of the breast skin.
Local recurrence after mastectomy is often described as a chest wall recurrence, which isnt entirely accurate because it implies that the cancer is in the muscle or bone. But usually such a recurrence appears in the skin and fat where the breast was before, and only rarely does it include the muscle.
Ninety percent of local recurrences following mastectomy happen within the first five years after the mastectomy. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of women with local recurrences after mastectomy have already been diagnosed with metastatic disease, and another 20 to 30 percent will develop it within a few months of diagnosis. Therefore, just as with local recurrences after breast conservation, tests should be done to look for distant disease.
Conventional Stages Of Breast Cancer Progression: 0 Through Iv
As mentioned, there are five basic stages of breast cancer with a couple of sub-categories.
This is a bit of an unclear term which specialists use to describe the development of abnormal cells that are not yet invasive breast cancer. Indeed physicians consider Ductal Carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, stage 0 breast cancer.
Here the malignant cancer cells are present in the lining of the breast d uct but have not yet invaded the surrounding breast tissue or spread beyond the duct. Almost 100% of DCIS is curable, but it obviously, does need treatment.
Early-stage breast cancer Stage 1
Stage 1 breast cancer is an early stage breast cancer. There is a considerable difference in medical opinion as to what exactly constitutes early stag e breast cancer. Also, how aggressive the treatment for Stage I breast cancer is another area of debate.
The standard definition of a stage 1 breast tumor is that a certain amount of breast cancer cells invade tissues and structures beyond the duct lining. However, no cancer cells have spread beyond the breast.
Furthermore, the tumor size is less than 2 cm in diameter. If physicians can detect and treat breast cancer before it grows beyond 2cm, the prognosis is very very good.
The average age of diagnosis of a stage 1 breast tumor is about 52 years old. In over 90% of cases, treatment tends to involve breast conservation surgery, followed by radiation therapy.
Chance of stage 1 cancer recurrence or spreading.
Also Check: Recurring Breast Cancer Symptoms
Treatment For Stage 1 Breast Cancer
Doctors can offer a variety of treatment options for stage 1 breast cancer, although surgery is the primary treatment.
A lumpectomy or mastectomy are both viable surgical options for people with stage 1 breast cancer. A doctor will decide what surgery is most appropriate depending on the location of the primary tumor, how large it is, the size of the breast, family history, genetics, and the persons preference.
Radiation therapy is a standard treatment for stage 1 breast cancer. However, a doctor may not recommend radiation therapy for people over 70 years old, particularly if hormone therapy is suitable.
If the breast cancer is ER+ or PR+, hormone therapy may be effective. Hormone therapy works by preventing the growth of estrogen, which helps cancer grow. Hormone therapy can reach cancer cells in the breast as well as other areas of the body and reduces the risk of the cancer coming back.
Before recommending chemotherapy, a doctor will test to see whether the cancer is hormone receptive.
If the test results show that the cancer is not receptive to estrogen and progesterone or to another protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 , it is known as triple-negative breast cancer .
Hormone therapy is ineffective against this cancer type, and people who have TNBC will usually need chemotherapy.
You May Like: What Is Stage 2 Cancer Of The Breast
From Cured To Stage 4
Others, like Teri Pollastro, a 54-year-old stage 4 patient from Seattle, respond surprisingly well.
Diagnosed with early stage ductal carcinoma in situ in 1999, Pollastro underwent a mastectomy but did not receive chemotherapy, radiation or tamoxifen, since her cancer was ER negative.
âThey used the C-word with me, they told me I was cured,â she said. âEvery time I went back to my oncologist, he would roll his eyes at me when I had questions.â
In 2003, Pollastro switched to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where she saw Dr. Julie Gralow, a breast cancer oncologist and clinical researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Gralow discovered Pollastroâs cancer had metastasized to her liver.
âMy husband and I were in shock,â said Pollastro of her mets diagnosis. âYou donât go from being cured to stage 4.â
Pollastro went on Herceptin, a type of immunotherapy for women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, and did six months of chemotherapy.
âI felt better right away with the treatment,â she said. âBut the problem is, it stopped . Thatâs what you can expect with mets. And thereâs always some residual cancer. And that starts percolating.â
And along with mets, she also had to deal with many misconceptions regarding her disease.
The Mercer Island, Washington, mother of two, who often counsels newly diagnosed patients, sometimes even found it difficult to relate to early stage breast cancer survivors.
You May Like: Hormonal Breast Cancer Symptoms
Examples Using The Full Staging System
Because there are so many factors that go into stage grouping for breast cancer, it’s not possible to describe here every combination that might be included in each stage. The many different possible combinations mean that two women who have the same stage of breast cancer might have different factors that make up their stage.
Here are 3 examples of how all of the factors listed above are used to determine the pathologic breast cancer stage:
Breast Cancer Is A Heterogeneous Disease
Based on the presence or absence of the oestrogen receptor and progesterone receptor , and the expression and amplification of the human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2 , breast cancer can be divided into three clinical subtypes: hormone-receptor -positive , HER2-positive and triple-negative ., In the United States, 71% of breast cancers are HR+, 17% are HER2+ and 12% are TN. Following the discovery of five intrinsic molecular subgroups of the disease based on a 50-gene expression classifier luminal A, luminal B, HER2-enriched, basal-like and normal-likeit became apparent that a large degree of unappreciated molecular heterogeneity exists across and within each subtype of breast cancer. While TN and HER2+ patients often present with basal-like and HER2-enriched cancers, respectively, HR+ women are usually diagnosed with luminal A or luminal B tumours. However, despite sharing some common traits, luminal A cancers are generally ER+, PR high and Ki67 low, resulting in low-grade, slow-proliferating neoplasms, whereas luminal B tumours are typically ER+, PR variable and Ki67 variable, translating into more aggressive cancers with a higher proliferative rate.
Also Check: Stage 3 B Breast Cancer
How Often Does Stage 1 Breast Cancer Come Back After Treatment
If stage 1 cancer is treated comprehensively, it rarely comes back. A new, unrelated breast cancer is more likely to emerge after stage 1 breast cancer is treated than a recurrence. Your healthcare provider will recommend a surveillance schedule for you so that new breast cancer or a recurrence can be identified and treated as quickly as possible.
Treatment For Metastatic Breast Cancer
There are a number of different approaches to treating metastatic breast cancer. Every cancer is unique and treatment can be tailored to your specific circumstances.
Doctors usually treat metastatic breast cancer in any part of the body with systemic medications, which treat cancer throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, targeted therapies, and immunotherapy are all systemic medications. Local treatments that target a specific part of the body, such as surgery or radiation, are sometimes recommended.
Most treatment decisions depend on where in the body the cancer has spread, the cancers characteristics , and any cancer treatments youve had in the past.
Also Check: Her2 Positive Breast Cancer Survival Rates 2013
Can You Do Anything To Prevent Or Slow The Spread Of Breast Cancer
Like any type of cancer, there are factors that can put you at higher risk. For breast cancer, these include things like smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and not performing monthly self-breast exams. Its also important to make sure and get your annual mammogram for breast cancer screening.
Other risk factors can include using hormone-based prescriptions, how many children youve had in the past, getting older and at what age you got your period and went through menopause.
In some instances, you cant necessarily prevent breast cancer, but you can sometimes slow it down, stop it from spreading or reduce the size of the tumor, says Dr. Roesch. You can do this by taking your medications as directed, following through with treatments, going to your appointments and being involved in your cancer care.
Youre in control of taking your medication correctly, eating a healthy diet, participating in an exercise program and managing stress. All of these things can contribute to a stronger physical body and better mental attitude both of which can have a positive impact on your breast cancer diagnosis.
What Is My Prognosis
This is a very common question that isnt always easy to answer. There are many factors involved in working out prognosis. Remember that a prognosis is just a figure at the point at which you receive it. For most people, the prognosis gets better with time.
Sometimes we use a five-year figure because we know that if cancer comes back, most of the time it comes back within five years. If the cancer has not come back within five years, then the chance of it coming back within ten years is quite low, and if it does not come back within ten years, then you have an almost normal life expectancy.
Its a bit like buying a second hand car. You dont really know how long its going to last, but if it lasts year after year without breaking down, then the car starts to look more and more reliable to make that long trip.
Working out prognosis can be difficult.
Read Also: Prognosis For Stage 3 Breast Cancer