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Metastatic Breast Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

  • Post published:April 13, 2023
  • Post category:Blog

Metastatic Breast Cancer is a stage 4 breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. This aggressive form of cancer can be difficult to treat and is often terminal.

What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?

Metastatic Breast Cancer is a complex and aggressive form of breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast tissue to other parts of the body. It is considered stage 4 breast cancer and is generally not curable. However, with advances in treatment, many people are living longer with metastatic breast cancer and are able to maintain a good quality of life.

Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Understanding Metastatic breast cancer occurs when cancer cells from the breast spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, or lungs.

Symptoms may include pain, fatigue, difficulty breathing, and bone fractures.

Causes of metastatic breast cancer are not fully understood, but factors such as age, genetics, and lifestyle may play a role.

Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer may include

  • chemotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • targeted therapy  and surgery.

The choice of treatment will depend on several factors, such as the location and extent of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences. Early detection and timely treatment can improve outcomes and prolong survival, so it’s important for patients to communicate openly with their healthcare team about any symptoms or concerns.

Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer: How to Manage Symptoms and Maintain Quality of Life

Symptom management and maintaining quality life may experience physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and difficulty breathing, as well as emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Managing these symptoms may involve medication, complementary therapies, exercise, and stress-reduction techniques. It’s important to communicate openly with healthcare team and make necessary adjustments to treatment plan as needed. By taking a proactive approach to symptom management and making lifestyle adjustments, patients with metastatic breast cancer can improve their quality of life and maximize their overall health and well-being.

How does Metastatic Breast Cancer Occurs?

Metastatic breast cancer occurs when cancer cells from the original tumor in the breast tissue break away and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

These cancer cells can then form new tumors, known as metastases, in other organs such as the

  • Bones
  • Lungs
  • Liver or
  • Brain

How Long Can You Live With Metastatic Breast Cancer?

It is difficult to predict how long an individual can live with metastatic breast cancer, as each person’s case is unique and can vary depending on various factors such as the extent of the cancer spread, the type of breast cancer, the individual’s overall health, and their response to treatment. Metastatic breast cancer is generally not curable, but treatment can help manage symptoms and prolong survival. Some individuals may live for several years with metastatic breast cancer, while others may have a more aggressive form of the disease and have a shorter life expectancy.

Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can vary depending on where the cancer has spread. Common symptoms include:

  • Back, bone, or joint pain that does not go away
  • Difficulty urinating (either incontinence or not being able to go), which can be a sign that the cancer is pinching nerves in your back
  • Numbness or weakness anywhere in your body
  • A constant dry cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain loss of appetite
  • Abdominal bloating, pain, or tenderness
  • Constant nausea, vomiting, or weight loss
  • Jaundice (a yellow tinge to the skin and whites of your eyes)
  • Severe headaches
  • Vision problems (blurry vision, double vision, loss of vision) seizures loss of balance confusion

How is Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

Metastatic Breast Cancer is typically diagnosed through a combination of imaging tests, such as

  • CT scans: May be used to detect cancers in organs other than the breast, such as the lung, liver, bone, and lymph nodes.
  • X-rays: Uses a small amount of radiation to provide a picture of the structures inside the body..
  • Bone scans: May be used to detect cancer metastasis to the bones. A radioactive tracer is used in the scan to see into the bones.
  • PET scans: It may also be used to determine whether the cancer has progressed to organs other than the breast.
  • MRIs: Uses magnetic fields, rather than x-rays, are used to provide detailed images of the body. MRI can be use to measure the tumor’s size and it can be determined via MRI.
  • Biopsies: The biopsy can also help determine the type of breast cancer and whether it has spread to other areas of the body.

Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Curable?

Metastatic Breast Cancer cannot be cured, it can often be treated and managed with a combination of treatments, including:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy, and Surgery.

The goal of treatment for metastatic breast cancer is to slow the growth and spread of the cancer, relieve symptoms, and improve quality of life. Some people with metastatic breast cancer may respond well to treatment and live for many years, while others may not respond as well and may have a shorter life expectancy.

What Are The Final Stages of Metastatic Breast Cancer?

The final stages of Metastatic Breast Cancer, can vary from person to person and depend on a range of factors, such as the location and extent of the cancer, the individual’s overall health and other medical conditions, and the treatments they have received.

However, in general, the final stages of metastatic breast cancer may include:

  • Worsening of symptoms: As the cancer progresses, symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath may become more severe.
  • Spread of cancer: The cancer may spread to other parts of the body, causing additional symptoms such as bone pain or neurological symptoms.
  • Reduced mobility: As the cancer progresses, individuals may experience weakness or difficulty walking or moving.
  • Changes in mental status: In some cases, the cancer may spread to the brain, leading to confusion, memory loss, or other cognitive changes.
  • Hospice care: As the end of life approaches, individuals may choose to receive hospice care, which focuses on providing comfort and support to individuals and their families during the final stages of life.

It’s important to note that not everyone with metastatic breast cancer will experience all of these symptoms, and the final stages of the disease can be unpredictable. Support from healthcare providers, loved ones, and palliative care specialists can help individuals with metastatic breast cancer and their families manage symptoms and make informed decisions about their care.

What Causes Metastatic Breast Cancer?

The exact cause of metastatic breast cancer is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to occur due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Some of the factors that may contribute to the development of metastatic breast cancer include:

  • Age: Women over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and therefore, metastatic breast cancer.
  • Genetics: Certain genetic mutations can increase the risk of developing breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer.
  • Hormones: Breast cancer is often hormone-sensitive, meaning that the growth of cancer cells is fueled by hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Hormone therapy can help prevent the growth of these cells, but sometimes cancer cells develop resistance to these therapies and continue to grow and spread.
  • Lifestyle factors: Obesity, lack of physical activity, and a poor diet can increase the risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides and industrial chemicals, may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Can Metastatic Breast Cancer Be Prevented?

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent metastatic breast cancer, there are some steps that can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer or detecting it early when it is more treatable.

Some steps that may help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.
  • Regular physical activity: Regular exercise can help lower the risk of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week.
  • Limiting alcohol intake: Drinking alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, so it’s recommended to limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day.
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of many types of cancer, including breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer.
  • Regular screening: Regular screening tests, such as mammograms, can help detect breast cancer early when it is more treatable.

Seek Medical Advice

It’s important to seek medical care from a healthcare provider with experience in treating metastatic breast cancer, such as an oncologist.

Some general pieces of advice for managing metastatic breast cancer:

  • Learn as much as you can about your cancer: It’s important to understand your diagnosis, treatment options, and possible side effects. This can help you make informed decisions about your care.
  • Develop a support system: Dealing with metastatic breast cancer can be emotionally and physically challenging. Having a strong support system of family, friends, and healthcare professionals can help you manage the ups and downs of the disease.
  • Manage symptoms: Treatment for metastatic breast cancer can cause a range of symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, and nausea. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to manage these symptoms so that you can feel as comfortable as possible.
  • Consider participating in clinical trials: Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments for cancer. They may provide access to new and innovative treatments that are not yet widely available.
  • Take care of your emotional well-being: Dealing with metastatic breast cancer can be emotionally taxing. Consider speaking with a counselor or therapist, joining a support group, or practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.
  • Advocate for yourself: It’s important to be an active participant in your healthcare, to ask questions, and to advocate for the care that you feel is best for you.

Remember that each person’s experience with metastatic breast cancer is unique. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a care plan that is tailored to your individual needs and preferences.