5 Things to Know About Metastatic Breast Cancer
When cancer cells spread from the breast to other parts of the body, this is referred to as metastatic breast cancer. It is considered advanced (stage 4) breast cancer. The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer vary depending on where the cells have invaded the body. Medication to slow the growth and improve symptoms is part of the treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Understanding Metastatic Breast
The most advanced stage of breast cancer is metastatic breast cancer. Breast cancer develops when abnormal breast cells begin to divide uncontrollably. A tumour is a collection or mass of these abnormal cells. Cancer cells that have spread to a new area of the body are referred to as metastasis. Cells in metastatic breast cancer may spread to the following:
Cancer is named by healthcare providers based on its primary cause. That is, breast cancer that spreads to other parts of the body is still considered breast cancer, and breast cancer cells are still cancer cells. Even if the cancer cells are in other areas, your care team will use breast cancer therapies.
Signs and Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer symptoms may differ from those of early-stage breast cancer, but not always. There are times when there are no symptoms at all. Patients should always consult their doctor if they notice any new signs or symptoms, but here are some of the most common signs of metastatic breast cancer:
- Tumor cells spreading to the bones or spinal cord can cause bone pain or fractures.
- When cancer has spread to the brain, you may experience headaches or dizziness.
- Lung cancer causes shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Swelling of the stomach or jaundice
The symptoms of breast cancer metastasis may also differ depending on where the cancer has spread in the body. As an example:
- Symptoms of breast or chest wall cancer may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
- Pain, fractures, or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels may occur if the cancer has spread to the bones.
- Symptoms of lung cancer include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain, and fatigue.
- Symptoms of liver cancer include nausea, fatigue, swelling of the feet and hands, and yellowing of the skin.
- Pain, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with and/or movement, or seizures may occur if cancer has spread to the central nervous system, which includes the brain or spinal cord.
Diagnosis of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer can occur at several stages:
- De novo metastatic breast cancer affects about 6% of women and 9% of men when they are first diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Distant recurrence: Metastatic breast cancer is most commonly diagnosed after the initial breast cancer treatment. A recurrence is when cancer returns and spreads to a different part of the body, which can happen years after the initial diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Cancer cells have the ability to invade nearby lymph nodes or blood vessels. Cancer cells then spread throughout the body via lymphatic or blood vessels. These blood vessels transport fluids and blood throughout the body. Cancer cells in new locations may form small tumors.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment
Systemic therapies, which use drugs rather than surgery or radiation, are frequently used to treat metastatic breast cancer. Treatments for metastases are intended to shrink tumors and slow their growth, as well as to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
Treatment may change if one therapy no longer works or the side effects become too uncomfortable. Rather than receiving only one treatment, most patients receive a combination of treatments to aid in the fight against cancer.
1. Hormone Therapy
This therapy works by preventing the production of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. Some types of breast cancer have receptors, or proteins, that bind to these hormones and aid in their growth. Blocking the hormones may help slow the progression of cancer. This treatment is effective against hormone receptor-positive cancers. Hot flashes and vaginal dryness are possible side effects of hormone therapy.
With so many chemotherapy drugs available, selecting the best one is dependent on the type of breast cancer. (It is frequently used in the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.)
Chemotherapy is usually administered intravenously in cycles over several weeks. Some patients are more tolerant than others. It is possible to experience nausea, diarrhea, a loss of appetite, fatigue, hair loss, and mouth sores.
3. Targeted Drugs
Targeted therapies are newer treatments that work to inhibit specific types of proteins or gene mutations that contribute to breast cancer. The terms “monoclonal antibodies,” “antibody-drug conjugates,” and “inhibitors” may be mentioned by an oncologist. These drugs, which are sometimes combined with chemotherapy or hormone therapy, can stop or slow the process that fuels cancer. Side effects are possible and differ from one drug to the next.
Immunotherapy drugs are intended to stimulate the immune system and cause cancer cells to be destroyed in certain types of breast cancer. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are what they’re called. Fatigue, coughing, nausea, rash, loss of appetite, and autoimmune reactions are all possible side effects.
The Final Words
It can be difficult to live with metastatic breast cancer, and physical and emotional support can be provided by your care team. For example, including a nutritious plan in your meal, exercising regularly, controlling your stress and anxiety issues, and getting the adequate emotional support that aids in mental health betterment are some things that will help you subdue the negative effects of metastatic breast cancer.