Welcome to our complete guide to learning about breast cancer that has spread. This blog is meant to help people who have been recently identified, who are caring for someone who has this condition, or who are just looking for information on the subject. We will talk about what metastatic breast cancer is, how it grows, and the different signs and symptoms that come with it in this guide. We will also talk about the medical tests and imaging methods used to find this condition, as well as the different ways it can be treated. Lastly, we will talk about ways to deal with stress and support groups for people who have advanced breast cancer. Let’s dive in and learn more about this disease and how it affects people and the people who care about them.
Table of Contents
Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer: What It Is and How It Spreads
Some types of breast cancer have spread to other parts of the body. This is called metastatic breast cancer. The disease is still called breast cancer, and doctors treat it as such, no matter where it spreads. Metastatic breast cancer can’t be cured, but it can be treated with different methods that can slow its spread, ease symptoms, and make people live longer.
About 168,000 women in the United States live with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of their bodies. Men can also have this problem, though it’s not common. It is important to know that only about 6% of women with breast cancer are identified at stage IV, which means the disease is very far along.
Interestingly, between 20% and 30% of women who have breast cancer that has spread were first identified with early-stage breast cancer. This shows how important it is to get regular check-ups and look for any signs of metastasis or return.
The lymph system or bloodstream can carry breast cancer to other parts of the body. It usually starts in the axillary nodes, which are lymph nodes under the arms. It then moves into the lymphatic system, which is made up of lymph nodes and veins and is part of the body’s immune system. Cancer cells can grow new tumors once they get to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer that has spread can happen months or even years after treatment for a cancer that is in an earlier stage is over. A far-off repeat is what this is called. Some treatments, like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, can get rid of or kill cancer cells. Some cancer cells may be left behind, though, which can cause new tumors to grow in other parts of the body.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer: From Lungs to Bones
Breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is called metastatic breast cancer. The bones, lungs, liver, and brain are all common places for breast cancer to spread. The signs of metastatic breast cancer differ on where the metastasis is located.
When breast cancer moves to the bones, people may feel pain, especially in the back or hips, break or fracture bones, and have too much calcium in their blood. Breast cancer that has spread to the lungs can make you tired and short of breath.
Liver spread can cause stomach pain or swelling, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), and feeling tired all the time. When breast cancer goes to the brain, people may notice changes in how they feel or move in a certain area of their body, as well as headaches, seizures, and changes in their hearing or vision. Brain tumors can also make you feel sleepy all the time.
Even if you have had breast cancer before, you should still tell your doctor if you have any of these signs. Even though these signs could be signs of something else, it is very important to get them checked out, especially if there is a history of breast cancer. If invasive breast cancer is found and treated early, the outlook is better and the quality of life is higher.
Diagnosing Metastatic Breast Cancer: Tests and Imaging Techniques
To confirm that someone has metastatic breast cancer, a number of tests and imaging methods are needed to find out how far the cancer has spread and where it is located. A biopsy is the main test used to make a diagnosis. In this test, a piece of tissue is taken from the area that is thought to be sick and looked at under a microscope. This lets doctors confirm the presence of cancer cells and find out what kind of cells they are.
Besides biopsies, different imaging methods are also used to find and study breast cancer that has spread. CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans are all popular ways to get detailed pictures of the body and find places where cancer may have spread. These imaging methods can help find tumors in the brain, lungs, liver, and bones, among other places.
Some types of imaging tests, like bone scans and liver scans, can be used to find out if the cancer has spread to these places. These scans can find changes or growths that aren’t normal in bone or liver tissue that could mean the breast cancer has spread.
To help find and keep an eye on distant breast cancer, blood tests like genetic testing and tumor markers may also be used. Cancer cells make chemicals that can be found in the blood. These are called tumor markers. Genetic tests can find specific gene changes that may be linked to breast cancer and help doctors decide how to treat the disease.
The stage of the cancer is found using the results of these tests and imaging methods. This is very important for making a good treatment plan. Finding and correctly diagnosing metastatic breast cancer early is very important for better patient outcomes and guiding the right treatment choices.
Treatment Options for Metastatic Breast Cancer: From Hormone Therapy to Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy has become more popular as a way to treat breast cancer that has spread over the body in recent years. To fight cancer cells with this method, the immune system of the person is used.
Immunotherapy has shown promise as a way to treat breast cancer that has spread, according to a clinical trial run by researchers at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research. The study found that a lot of people with breast cancer that has spread can make their immune system attack their tumors, which is needed for this type of immunotherapy to work. As it turns out, 67% of the women in the study made their immune systems fight their cancer, showing that this treatment method might work.
Some people think that hormone receptor-positive breast cancers can’t make the immune system react and can’t be treated with immunotherapy. This work challenges that idea. This type of immunotherapy may be able to help some people with advanced breast cancer who have tried everything else and failed.
It is a drug that boosts a person’s immune system to fight cancer. But most immunotherapies, like immune checkpoint inhibitors, don’t work very well against hormone receptor-positive breast cancers, which are the most common type of breast cancer. Because of this, the results of the clinical study are very important because they give people with metastatic breast cancer who are looking for other treatment options hope.
It’s possible that the immunotherapy method used in the study will completely change the way breast cancer is treated. By using the body’s own immune system, this treatment method opens up a new way to fight breast cancer that has spread. More study and clinical trials are needed to fully understand how well and safely this method works, but the results of this trial give people with metastatic breast cancer who are looking for other treatment options hope.
Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer: Coping Strategies and Support Resources
Going through life with metastatic breast cancer can be very hard and stressful, both physically and mentally. To deal with being told you have metastatic breast cancer, you need a thorough and individualized plan that takes into account your specific needs and situation.
Having good support is one of the most important things for people who have metastatic breast cancer to live with. Support resources, like support groups and online communities, can help people with metastatic breast cancer feel like they fit and are understood. Getting in touch with people who are going through similar things can help you feel better, give you support, and give you new ideas.
These support groups can also give you useful knowledge and tools to help you deal with the difficulties of living with metastatic breast cancer. They can give you information about different types of care, how to deal with side effects, and how to get more help. When you have advanced breast cancer, it’s important to put yourself first and do things that make you happy and feel better.
Getting professional help, like therapy or counseling, can also help you deal with the mental effects of having metastatic breast cancer. Therapists and counselors can give you a safe place to work through your feelings, come up with ways to deal with problems, and get through the challenges that come with your diagnosis.
Remember that it’s okay to ask for help and rely on other people to help you through this tough time. Being alone with advanced breast cancer is not a good idea. The website breastcancer.org is a great place for people with metastatic breast cancer to get knowledge, support, and a sense of community. By joining this community, you can get a lot of useful information, tools, and support from other people who understand what it’s like to live with metastatic breast cancer and can help you along the way.
Millions of people around the world are affected by metastatic breast cancer, which is a difficult and complicated disease. We can give ourselves and our loved ones the power to make smart choices and get the best care by learning about the disease’s signs, how to diagnose it, and the different ways it can be treated. Remember that no one should have to go through life with advanced breast cancer by themselves. There are many places to get help, like support groups, counseling services, and online communities, that can offer warmth, direction, and a sense of belonging. People who have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer should be able to handle their journey with strength, grit, and hope after reading this complete guide