Signs and Treatments Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Any type of cancer is a serious and worrisome diagnosis for the patient and their loved ones, but metastatic breast cancer is one of the most feared. Also known as advanced or stage IV, it occurs when cancer cells have spread from the breast to other parts of the body.

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Not only is breast cancer a common type of cancer that can strike women of all ethnicities and ages worldwide, but it also gets harder to treat and keep under control if it isn’t caught in the early stages. What complicates things further still is that symptoms vary, depending on where the cancer has spread to, and the symptoms can occur in a range of other diseases and conditions as well. Therefore, it’s of crucial importance to pay attention to your body and any irregular symptoms, check your breasts at least once a month and get screened for breast cancer at least once a year, as this will significantly reduce your risk of developing advanced breast cancer.

Listed below are some of the most common signs of metastatic breast cancer, along with the various treatment options available.

Breast Cancer

Signs And Symptoms

As mentioned previously, metastatic breast cancer can spread to various parts of the body, including the bones, lungs, liver, and brain. The overall signs and symptoms depend on the location of the cancer.

If it has reached a certain bone, the patient will experience bone pain. This pain may be constant or come and go. It can range from mild to severe, and can occur in any bone in the body. The discomfort may also be worse at night or during physical activity. If the lungs get affected, cancer cells block the airways, leading to inflammation in the lungs. This will cause chronic shortness of breath and tightness, resulting in a nagging persistent cough. Breast cancer can also spread to the liver, which causes jaundice. This is a condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow, due to the build-up of bilirubin in the body.

Metastatic breast cancer can also spread to the brain or spinal cord, lymphatic vessels in the arms or legs, stomach, intestines or ovaries, causing the following symptoms:

– Headaches and seizures.
– Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and constipation.
– Swelling in the arms or legs, also known as lymphedema.
– Fatigue that may be caused by the cancer itself, or the treatments being used to manage it.

Medical Treatments

Unfortunately, Metastatic breast cancer is not yet curable, but it can be managed and kept under control with various treatments. The goal of treatment is to slow down the growth of cancer, reduce symptoms, and improve the patient’s quality of life. The following are some of the common treatments used for metastatic breast cancer:

– Systemic therapy targets cancer cells throughout the body. It includes chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapy. Chemotherapy is a medication that kills rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. Hormonal therapy is effective in blocking the hormones that fuel the growth of certain types of breast cancer. Targeted therapy is a medication that specifically targets the cancer cells.

– Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It is often used to relieve debilitating symptoms, such as bone pain or shortness of breath.

– Surgery is used to remove a tumor that is causing symptoms, such as a tumor in the brain or spinal cord. It can also remove a tumor that is blocking a vital organ, such as the intestines or lungs.

– Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life. It includes medication, pain management, and other supportive care.

– Clinical trials / research studies test new treatments or combinations of treatments for metastatic breast cancer. These studies may offer patients access to new treatments that are not yet available to the general public.

Complementary Treatments And Lifestyle Changes

Complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, and meditation, may also be used to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. It’s highly recommended to first talk to your healthcare team before trying any complementary therapy.

Lastly, lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough rest, can also help reduce symptoms.

Additional Helpful Steps

It is important for patients with metastatic breast cancer to work closely with their healthcare team to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to their individual needs. This is because treatment may need to change over time if the cancer progresses or new symptoms arise.

In addition to medical treatment, patients may also benefit from emotional and social support. Support groups, counseling, and other resources can help patients and their loved ones cope with the physical and emotional challenges of living with this disease.

Final Thoughts

Metastatic breast cancer is a serious and complex disease that requires careful management and a lot of ongoing support, as it can take quite a heavy toll on both the physical and mental aspects of health. There are many counselors and support groups available that can make everyday life much easier. In the fight against breast cancer, this support can provide the patient and their family the love and comfort they need.

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