Metastatic breast cancer is a kind of breast cancer that has spread to other organs or lymph nodes surrounding the breast. Although incurable, there is treatment which can delay its progression and relieve its symptoms. Metastatic breast cancer patients usually survive for 18 to 24 months.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms
Metastatic breast cancer signs depend on the organs or parts of the body to which the cancer has progressed. In some cases, there are no prior signs of metastatic breast cancer. Here are some common signs of metastatic breast cancer: A lump in the breast or the underarm is the most common symptom. It denotes that the breast or chest wall might be affected. Other symptoms include discharge from the nipple and pain.
Metastatic breast cancer might also affect the bones. In such a case, symptoms include pain, fracture, and constipation. High calcium levels may cause decreased alertness which is a metastatic breast cancer sign. If the cancer affects the brain or the spinal cord, the individual may experience pain; headache; loss of memory; difficulty with speech, vision, and movement; or seizures. If it progresses to the lungs, metastatic breast cancer signs may include breathing difficulties or shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. When symptoms include nausea, swelling of hands and feet due to accumulation of fluid, itchy skin, yellowing skin, or increased fatigue, it usually denotes that the cancer has progressed to the liver.
Research is ongoing for better treatment of metastatic breast cancer. The treatment available today seeks to prolong survival and relieve cancer-related symptoms. Systematic therapy is the most common treatment for metastatic breast cancer. However, in some circumstances, surgery or radiation may also be required. You should talk to your doctor regarding the appropriate treatment.
This treatment includes chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, and/or biologic agents depending on the nature and size of the tumor and specific symptoms. The kind of therapy to be implemented also depends on the status of hormone-receptors, i.e., estrogen and/or progesterone receptors. Metastatic breast cancer patients who are hormone-receptor positive may be treated with anti-estrogen therapy. It is also known as endocrine therapy. Hormone-receptor negative patients aren’t candidates for this therapy. Hormone-receptor positive patients may also undergo the tamoxifen therapy. Tamoxifen is a pill which is commonly prescribed for pre-menopausal women and patients with breast cancer at an advanced stage. It is a first-line endocrine therapy.
Surgery And Radiation Therapy
In case of certain symptoms or complications such as spinal cord fracture or herniation risk, a specific lesion may require treatment. It may require surgery or radiation therapy to treat or decrease the progression of the cancer from the affected area. This approach of treatment is tailored to be patient-specific.
You should consult your doctor without delay if you notice signs of metastatic breast cancer. Your doctor might require you to participate in clinical trials and consultation sessions to determine the best treatment approach.