Metastatic Breast Cancer Has Spread To Other Parts of the Body
Breast cancer is one of the most common and well known cancers in the world. Somewhere between 1 in every 8 women may develop breast cancer during their lifetime! This shows how serious it is. When it comes to getting breast cancer, there are some common trends among women. Genetic factors can play a role. Specifically the genes designated as BRCA1 and BRCA2 play a role. BRCA mutation in either gene results in a risk that is over 5 times the normal risks! These genes being mutated also carry a huge risk of ovarian cancer (10 to 30 times the normal risk levels).
Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer which has managed to spread to other parts of the body. This metastasizing effect can occur to a number of locations and is commonly facilitated by the lymphatic system or through the bloodstream. This is a very serious form of breast cancer and treatment is incredibly important.
Understanding the Stages of Breast Cancer
Most forms of cancer use the basic staging system which extends from stage 1 up to stage 4. Breast cancer actually has a fifth stage known as stage 0. It also splits many of the earlier stages up into subsections. The Stages of breast cancer include:
- Stage 0 - This form of cancer only has cancerous cells that are restricted to the milk ducts, breast lobules or having Paget disease. It’s considered non invasive.
- Stage 1 (A and B) - Stage one features small tumors. Stage 1A simply refers to a 2cm or smaller tumor, while B can have a small number of small cancer cells that have spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2 (A and B) - The stages of 2 may have slightly bigger tumors (up to 5cm) with the cancer having spread to axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes in the chest or breast bone. If the cancer hasn’t spread at all, Stage 2B can include tumors larger than 5cm.
- Stage 3 (A, B and C) - There’s a wide variety of criteria for stage 3. Typically, a cancer is stage 3 if it’s smaller than 5cm, but has reached a large number of lymph nodes, if it’s larger than 5cm and has spread to several lymph nodes or the tumor has grown into muscles or skin near the breasts. The specific lymph nodes the cancer has spread to will often determine the subtype of Stage 3.
- Stage 4 - This is the main type of cancer this article hopes to explore. Stage 4 is what’s known as metastatic. The cancer has spread out from the breast to other organs, tissues or bones in the body.
Types of Metastasis
There are several different types of metastasis that can occur. Sometimes they will produce symptoms, and other times the symptoms may be hidden or very quiet. There are many different metastasis that can occur. Some of the most common include:
- Lung Metastasis - This form rarely shows symptoms early. If it doesn, they tend to be linked to the respiratory system. This can include symptoms like a chronic incurable cough, shortness of breath, coughing up blood and pain in the chest.
- Brain Metastasis - This is a dangerous metastasis. Some primary symptoms include ind their vision becomes blurred, they have issues with memory and speech, or suffer from headaches among other issues.
- Bone Metastasis - People who have cancer spread to their bones often recognize it through new pains. Breast cancer can metastasize in almost any bone, but tends towards the larger bones in the arms and legs, the spine, pelvis, and rib bones.
- Liver Metastasis - This is another cancerous metastasis that doesn’t always show symptoms right away. Sometimes people may feel fatigued or weak, while losing their appetite and losing weight. Fever can be felt, as can discomfort in the mid-section of the body.
Treatment That Can Be Attempted
Treatment for metastatic breast cancer can encapsulate a wide variety of different options. This is because the cancerous cells in different areas of the body can respond to different treatments. Chemotherapy is known as a widespread treatment that attempts to eliminate as many cancer cells as it can throughout the body. Radiation therapy can also control cancers in some areas, but also often helps with pain. Targeted therapy can exploit weaknesses in cancer cells and the way they are constructed. Hormonal therapy can be effective with breast cancers to slow cancers that react to hormone levels. Surgery is another important part of treatment in many cases. Surgery can be used on numerous different parts of the body to try to remove portions of cancerous organs and tissue so they can perform properly again.
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