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When Breast Cancer Spreads To The Lungs

Emotional And Spiritual Care

Ones For Wellness: Metastatic Breast Cancer

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.

The Breast Cancer Healthline app provides people with access to an online breast cancer community, where users can connect with others and gain advice and support through group discussions.

Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In The Bones

Although metastatic breast cancer can potentially occur in any bone in the body, it most often affects the ribs, spine, pelvis and long bones in the arms and legs. Breast cancer that has spread to the bones may cause:

  • Sudden bone pain, such as hip or back pain, which may feel similar to the discomfort associated with arthritis or exercise strain but is persistent or progressively worse even with rest or conservative measures
  • An increased risk of bone fractures that result from minimal trauma, such as a minor fall
  • An elevated level of calcium in the blood, which can lead to fatigue, nausea, dehydration and loss of appetite
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in an arm or leg

When Cancer Goes Beyond Your Breast

If your doctor told you that your breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body, it’s at a more advanced stage than if it’s only in your breasts. How far it has spread is one of the things your doctor will consider when she tells you the “stage” of your cancer. It’s considered “metastatic” if it has spread far from your breasts. Every case is different. For some women, it becomes something they live with for a long time. For others, focusing on pain management and quality of life is the main goal.

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Treatment Of Lung Metastases

Treatment for lung metastases is usually based on the main type of cancer the person has. Treatment may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiation therapy, or a combination of these.

Surgery may be an option if there are a small number of lung metastases and there are no metastases in other parts of the body. Also, surgery would only be used if the main cancer is under control.

Controlling symptoms is important, especially if treatment for the main cancer is not effective or may take a while to help. Shortness of breath can be one of the hardest feelings to deal with. Morphine-like medicines can be used to help decrease the feeling of shortness of breath. Anti-anxiety medicines may be helpful if the morphine-like medicines dont work.

Having trouble breathing can make you feel anxious, worried, and even like you are in a panic. Some patients find the steps below helpful.

  • Distraction
  • A fan blowing cool air on you

Pain can also be hard to deal with, especially if you have other symptoms. Talk to your healthcare team about how you can use medicines and supportive methods to treat your pain.

Stem Cell Or Bone Marrow Transplant

Secondary breast cancer in the lung

A stem cell transplant, sometimes called bone marrow transplant, replaces damaged blood-forming cells with healthy ones. The procedure takes place following large-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill cancer cells and to stop your stem cells from producing cancerous cells.

Stem cell transplants can be used for several types of cancer, including multiple myeloma and some kinds of leukemia.

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Support For Living With Secondary Breast Cancer In The Lung

Everyones experience of being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer is different, and people cope in their own way.

For many people, uncertainty can be the hardest part of living with secondary breast cancer.

You may find it helpful to talk to someone else whos had a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer.

You can also call Breast Cancer Nows Helpline free on 0808 800 6000.

How Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Treated

Although metastatic breast cancer currently cant be cured, it can be treatable with hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, biologic targeted treatments, and novel drug combinations.

Treatment for brain metastases whether originating in the breast or other part of the body takes a variety of forms, including:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Systemic treatment such as chemotherapy and/or targeted therapy

Care teams at the Metastatic Breast Cancer Program at Dana-Farber develop personalized treatment approaches for each patients specific type of cancer, as well as an individual plan of care and support for them and their loved ones.

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How Are Lung Metastases Diagnosed

You may be diagnosed with lung metastases after you report symptoms to your doctor and your doctor orders a test. Or, you may be diagnosed with lung metastases after a routine test suggests something is wrong.

Doctors use tests to create pictures of the lungs and learn whether cancer has spread to them. CT scans or a combination of a and a PET scan called PET-CT are the imaging tests most often used to diagnose lung metastases. Doctors may also use chest x-rays, or, less often, MRIs.

Sometimes these tests arent enough to confirm a of lung metastases. In that case, your doctor may recommend a bronchoscopy, in which a doctor inserts a thin, lighted tube into your nose or mouth to look at your airways. This allows your doctor to look for tumors in your lungs.

Your doctor may also recommend a . During a lung biopsy a removes a small piece of suspicious-looking lung so it can be tested for breast cancer cells. More and more, doctors are using CT scans to guide the bronchoscopy or biopsy, which makes the process less invasive.

Cancers Likely To Metastasize

Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day: #LightUpMBC LIVE

You may be surprised to learn that lung metastases are quite common. While almost any cancer can spread to the lungs, some are more likely than others to do so. With that, the most common types of cancer that metastasize to the lungs include:

  • Thyroid cancer
  • Uterine cancer

Pulmonary metastases occur also very often in sarcoma, a relatively rare type of cancer. As many as 20% of soft tissue sarcomas and up to 40% of bone sarcomas develop lung metastases.

Occasionally, healthcare providers are unable to determine the primary site of cancer. In this case, they refer to the cancer as a cancer of unknown origin with metastasis to the lungs.

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Is Stage 4 Breast Cancer Curable

Theres currently no cure for stage 4 breast cancer, but with treatments it can be kept under control, often for years at a time.

People with metastatic breast cancer need to receive treatments for the rest of their lives. If a certain treatment stops being effective, another treatment regimen may be tried.

How Breast Cancer Spreads And Recurs

Breast cancer is frightening enough without the fear that it could travel to other parts of the body. Metastasis is the term for the spread of cancer. About 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and roughly 40,000 will die from the disease each year. When breast cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, many women go on to live cancer-free lives.

Yet for others, the disease is metastatic at the time of diagnosis or later recurs. It’s thought that metastatic disease is responsible for around 66% of the deaths related to breast cancer. How does breast cancer spread or recur?

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About Metastatic Breast Cancer

Cancer begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control, forming a mass or sheet of cells called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread.When breast cancer is limited to the breast and/or nearby lymph node regions, it is called early stage or locally advanced. Read about these stages in a different guide on Cancer.Net. When breast cancer spreads to an area farther from where it started to another part of the body, doctors say that the cancer has metastasized. They call the area of spread a metastasis, or use the plural of metastases if the cancer has spread to more than 1 area. The disease is called metastatic breast cancer. Another name for metastatic breast cancer is “stage IV breast cancer if it has already spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis of the original cancer.

Doctors may also call metastatic breast cancer advanced breast cancer. However, this term should not be confused with locally advanced breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.

How To Reduce The Risk Of Metastasis

Analysis Of Kidney cancer That Has spread To The Lungs

After someone has received initial treatment, breast cancer can lay dormant in the body before spreading to other areas. People who have received treatment in the past should monitor themselves for any signs or symptoms that could indicate cancer recurrence.

While there is no single way to avoid developing metastatic breast cancer entirely, there are some lifestyle changes that can help reduce a persons risk.

People may reduce the risk of metastases with the following factors:

  • having regular health screenings

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Looking For More Of An Introduction

If you would like more of an introduction, explore these related items. Please note that these links will take you to other sections on Cancer.Net:

  • ASCO AnswersFact Sheet: Read a 1-page fact sheet that offers an introduction to metastatic breast cancer. This free fact sheet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.
  • ASCO AnswersGuide:Get this free 52-page booklet that helps you better understand breast cancer. The booklet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.
  • Cancer.Net Patient Education Video: View a short video led by an ASCO expert in metastatic breast cancer that provides basic information and areas of research.

Receptors For Secondary Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cells may have receptors . Hormones, or a protein called HER2, can attach to the receptors and encourage the cells to grow. A doctor called a pathologist tests cancer cells taken during a biopsy or surgery for these receptors. Your doctor uses the results of these tests to help plan your treatment.

If you have had primary breast cancer before, the receptors may not be the same as when you were first diagnosed. This may mean different treatments are useful. Your doctor may be able to diagnose a secondary cancer from your scan results. But they may still recommend a biopsy to find out more about the cancer cell receptors.Cancer that does not have receptors for either hormones or HER2 is called triple negative breast cancer.

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How Is Metastatic Lung Cancer Treated

Treatment for metastatic lung cancer varies from patient to patient. When lung cancer spreads locally, to nearby tissues such as the lining of the lung or lymph nodes, surgery could be an effective option, whereas radiation therapy or chemotherapy might be more likely to be recommended for lung cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we take a comprehensive, individualized approach to treatment. Our multispecialty team of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other lung cancer experts collaborate to develop a tailored treatment plan for each patient. This ensures the best possible outcome and quality of life for every one of our patients.

For more information about lung cancer, how fast it spreads and how it is treated, call or complete a new patient registration form online.

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Treatment For Metastatic Cancer

breast cancer stage IV its spread to my lungs

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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Lung Metastasis: Symptoms Can Be Subtle

Many people who have metastatic breast cancer develop lung metastases. Usually the symptoms are shortness of breath and/or a chronic cough. The symptoms can be fairly subtle, and they typically come on slowly, since the cancer has to use up a lot of your lungs before it compromises your breathing.

There are a couple of different places the cancer can appear in your lung. One is in nodulesusually severalthat show up on a chest X ray. If it shows up in only one nodule, your doctor may want to do a needle biopsy or a full biopsy to find out if its lung cancer or a breast cancer that has spread.

Another form of metastasis in the lung is called lymphangitic spread. In this situation, the cancer spreads along the lymphatics and instead of forming nodules it occurs in a fine pattern throughout the lung. This isnt all cancer. Some of the changes in the lung are due to a lack of lymphatic drainage and fibrosis in the lymph channels. This type of metastasis is subtler and harder to detect on a chest X ray, but it, too, will ultimately cause shortness of breath, since it takes up room and scars the lungs, making them less able to expand and contract and bring oxygen into your bloodstream.

Source: DrSusanLoveResearch.org retrieved September 2016

Study May Help Explain Why Breast Cancer Often Spreads To The Lungs

Triple-negative breast cancer cells can facilitate changes to the lung that both attract cancerous cells and allow them to grow

Dr. Alison Allan, Lawson Scientist

LHSC: London Regional Cancer Program –

A team from Lawson Health Research Institute has shown that triple-negative breast cancer cells can facilitate changes to the lung that both attract cancerous cells and allow them to grow, leading to lung metastasis.

Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells from a primary tumour to different organs. Lung metastasis is responsible for approximately 60 to 70 per cent of deaths related to breast cancer.

The best way to explain lung metastasis is the seed and soil analogy, says Dr. Alison Allan, Lawson Scientist. The seeds are the breast cancer cells from a primary tumour and the soil is the lungs microenvironment. Seeds can break away, but they only grow if the soil is fertile.

The majority of studies on metastatic cancer have focused on the characteristics of tumour cells and not on the organs to which they spread. Dr. Allans team is studying how the lung microenvironment itself is contributing to lung metastasis.

The team found that models with triple-negative breast cancer had a drastically different lung microenvironment that was much more hospitable to the growth of cancer. They also found that triple-negative breast cancer cells might be sending signals to the lung to help it attract cancerous cells that enter the bloodstream.

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Symptoms Of Metastatic Cancer

Metastatic cancer does not always cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, what they are like and how often you have them will depend on the size and location of the metastatic tumors. Some common signs of metastatic cancer include:

  • pain and fractures, when cancer has spread to the bone
  • headache, seizures, or dizziness, when cancer has spread to the brain
  • shortness of breath, when cancer has spread to the lung
  • jaundice or swelling in the belly, when cancer has spread to the liver

What Is Secondary Breast Cancer

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Secondary breast cancer is when cancer cells from a cancer that started in the breast spread to other parts of the body. The cancer that started in the breast is called primary breast cancer.Secondary breast cancer is also called advanced breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer. The most common places for breast cancer to spread to are the:

Rarely, breast cancer may spread to other parts of the body, such as the bone marrow, ovaries or lining of the tummy which is called the peritoneum.

Breast cancer can spread to different parts of the body. This does not mean it will go to all these places.

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Triple Negative Breast Cancer

With this type of breast cancer, the breast cancer cells dont have ER+ or PR+ receptors. They dont overproduce the HER2 protein, so hormone therapy isnt very effective.

Instead, triple negative stage 4 breast cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may also be an option, depending on the site of metastasis.


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