Metastatic Breast Cancer
What is metastatic breast cancer?
Metastatic breast cancer is also called stage IV breast cancer, as it has spread to other parts of the body. The most common places that the cancer spreads to are the liver, bones, brain, or lungs.
About 30% of women who are diagnosed with the early stages of breast cancer will develop the metastatic form. At times people are not diagnosed until the cancer has already spread.
What are the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer?
Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can vary depending on what part of the body the cancer has spread to. If the cancer has spread to the bones, sudden, noticeable pain in the bone will appear. If it has spread to the lungs, symptoms include issues with breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, and other issues. If it has metastasized to the brain people may experience headaches, changes in speech and vision, problems with the memory, and others. If the liver is affected, effects include pain and discomfort in the abdomen, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, poor appetite, fever, and others.
What causes metastatic breast cancer?
The cause of cancer itself is unknown, but the reasons for the spread of cancer are known. A major way is that cancer cells can invade healthy cells. They also penetrate the circulatory or lymph systems or are carried through the bloodstream. Cancer cells can also lodge in the capillaries. Micrometastases also occur.
How is metastatic breast cancer diagnosed?
Multiple tests can be performed to diagnose metastatic breast cancer. Doctors will decide which test is best based on the patient’s overall health, location of the cancer, symptoms, and the results of a physical exam. Possible tests include X-rays, bone scans, a CT scan, a PET scan, an MRI, a serum chemistry blood test, a complete blood count, or a blood tumor marker test.
What are the treatments of metastatic breast cancer?
There are multiple options for treatment for metastatic breast cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapy. There are also clinical trials that may be an option for some.