Facebook Twitter instagram Youtube
Breast Cancer Awareness Day 20022: Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Breast Cancer Awareness Day 20022: Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?


Metastatic breast cancer is when the breast cancer cells grow uncontrollably. A tumour develops in breast cancer which is nothing but a mass or a collection of these abnormal cells. Metastasis is a situation when the cancer cells spread and affect new areas in the body. In the case of metastatic breast cancer, the cells may spread to the bones, brain, lungs, and liver.

Metastatic breast cancer and stage 4 breast cancer essentially mean the same thing. Breast cancer in its last stage is referred to as metastatic cancer as it has metastasized to other and newer parts of the body.


Metastatic Breast Cancer Risk Factors


Like other cancer types, metastatic breast cancer also has certain risk factors. People who are recovering from an existing cancer are at a higher risk of getting metastatic cancer after finishing the cancer treatment. The risk of developing metastatic breast cancer depends on diverse cancer features that include the following:

  • Type of cancer cells
  • Stage and condition at first diagnosis
  • Treatment received for cancer


Metastatic Breast Cancer Causes


Cancer cells, formed inside the breast, can invade the surrounding lymph nodes or blood vessels. The cancer cells can then easily travel to the new body areas and locations throughout the body via lymph vessels or blood vessels. As these vessels carry blood and fluid throughout the body, cancer cells travelling through these vessels may form tumours in the new locations.

Metastatic cancer also occurs when the previous cancer treatment didn’t end up destroying all the cancer cells. Sometimes, after the cancer treatment ends, certain cells may remain undetected or hidden. These cells then end up growing again and start spreading.

There is practically nothing that one can do to prevent breast cancer from metastasizing and metastatic breast cancer also doesn’t happen because of anything you did or did not.


Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms


The metastatic breast cancer symptoms largely depend on where the cancer cells have invaded and the extent of invasion. Here are a few metastatic breast cancer symptoms:

Bone Metastases Symptoms

  • Pain in the bones
  • Swelling
  • Brittle bones that are at risk of breaking and getting fractured easily


Brain Metastases Symptoms

  • thumping pressure in the head or worsening headaches
  • Trouble with vision
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Behaviour & personality changes


Liver Metastases Symptoms

  • Jaundice
  • Skin itching or rashes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea & vomiting


Lung Metastases Symptoms

  • Persistent cough that doesn’t go away
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain


Other Signs & Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss without trying
  • Poor appetite
  • High enzymes in liver test
  • Significant findings in chest X-ray


Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis

If you think you’re showing metastatic breast cancer symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor. Based on your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may advise you on the following tests to reach a diagnosis:

  • Some blood tests including comprehensive metabolic investigations and a Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Imaging scans like MRI, CT scan, Bone Scan, and PET
  • Bronchoscopy to look for a concerning spot inside your lungs
  • Histopathology tests including biopsy to remove tissue from the affected area and send it for further analysis and investigation
  • A tapping procedure to remove excessive fluid from the affected area showing symptoms; for instance, pleural tapping is done to remove fluids from the lungs and Spinal tapping is performed to remove excessive fluid build-up from the spinal cord area


Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment


Unfortunately, there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer as it’s impossible to get rid of the cancer cells once they have spread to other distant areas of the body. Having said that, the right and appropriate treatment plan can help improve the quality of life and extend it. Any metastatic breast cancer treatment plan aims at shrinking the tumour size, minimising its growth, and improving your symptoms.

Systemic therapy is the primary treatment for metastatic breast cancer that treats the entire body. Systemic therapies are a combination of treatments that include Chemotherapy, Hormonal Therapy, Immuno Therapy and Targeted Therapy.

Your treating practitioner will chalk out a metastatic breast cancer treatment plan for you based on the extent where cancer has reached, the body parts it has affected, past breast cancer treatment, existing symptoms, and tumour biology (how the cancer cells look and behave).

The treatment for metastatic breast cancer continues for an indefinite period. However, you can stop the treatment if you feel you’re unable to tolerate the side effects as cancer treatment side effects can get really uncomfortable.

Medical practitioners don’t usually advise going for surgery for metastatic breast cancer as that won’t help if the cancer has already spread to multiple parts of the body. Surgery may only help in cases where the doctor has to operate to prevent broken bones, restore liver blockages, and ease the pain.


Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer

  • Eat a nutritious diet to take care of your needs and support the treatment.
  • Adopt an active lifestyle and exercise every day to keep yourself fit and energetic.
  • Manage stress with appropriate measures like breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, etc.
  • Find emotional support with friends, family, and loved ones.
  • Seek guidance and support for mental health.


If you feel any of the metastatic breast cancer symptoms or are not really feeling your best, speak to your healthcare provider and get evaluated for metastatic breast cancer.

Dr. Anurag Khare
Meet The Doctor
Back to top