Metastatic breast cancer refers to breast cancer, which has spread to other parts of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver, or less commonly, the brain. Metastatic breast cancer is also called advanced, secondary, or stage IV breast cancer. Irrespective of the part of the body where metastatic breast cancer has spread, breast cancer treatment is carried out with conventional breast cancer drugs and not through specific drugs for bone cancer or liver cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer usually occurs several years after primary cancer has been diagnosed and treated; but in some cases, metastatic breast cancer diagnosis might happen with primary diagnosis. Metastatic breast cancer is not completely curable, but can only be controlled.
Metastatic breast cancer treatment can be undertaken as the spread of cancer usually happens through one or more of the following ways:
- Cancer cells attack nearby cells and infect them.
- Cancer cells travel into the blood vessels and enter the circulatory system.
- Cancer cells are carried by the blood to other parts of the body.
- Cancer cells get stuck in capillaries and invade nearby healthy tissues.
- Cancer cells join to form small tumors at the new location.
Signs of breast cancer may vary from person to person depending on how far the cancer has spread and what type of tissues the cancer cells have attacked. Breast cancer treatment depends on the symptoms, which vary by location associated with breast cancer metastasis.
Signs of metastasis in the bone
- Intense, consistent pain
- Bones easily susceptible to fractures
Signs of metastasis in the brain
- A headache which is persistent and progressively worsening
- Deteriorating eyesight
- Vomiting and nausea
- Marked changes in personality and behavior
Signs of metastasis in liver
- Rashes on skin
- High levels of enzymes in liver
- Pain in abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
Signs of metastasis in lungs
- Chronic cough
- Abnormal chest X-ray
- Chest pain
Breast cancer treatment also looks for other general symptoms of metastatic breast cancer such as fatigue, unusual weight loss, poor appetite, but these symptoms may also be due to medication or depression. Advanced metastatic breast cancer treatment involves awareness, proper combination of drugs, therapy, and hope.