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:
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
Brain Metastases Symptoms
Liver Metastases Symptoms
Lung Metastases Symptoms
Other Signs & Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer:
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:
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
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.