Metastatic breast cancer is commonly referred to as stage four breast cancer, which means that cancer cannot be controlled in one area of the body alone. Often the cancer spread goes through the bloodstream or the lymph system. Medical professionals define a metastatic tumor or metastatic cancer as a disease that spreads from the primary site of origin to occupy other parts of the body.
Once diagnosed, stage four breast cancer is considered to enter the severe stage where the survival rate stands at 22 percent, but if undergo aggressive treatment you can increase your lifespan.
Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer
Once you get diagnosed with breast cancer, it takes years for the disease to spread throughout the body. Those that get diagnosed early between stages one and three, with proper treatment, have a high survival rate.
Once cancer cells start manifesting in the body, every part of the body is at risk of being attacked and overcome by the cells. However, certain parts of the body are more prone than others, such as the liver, the brain, the bones, and the lungs.
Early-Stage Metastatic Breast Cancer Warnings
These are the signs you should look out for that the cancer might have spread to other parts of your body:
Extreme Fatigue: Similar to other types of cancer, metastatic cancer leads to extreme fatigue. Even after a good night’s sleep, most people suffering from this type of cancer wake up feeling drained.
Simple daily activities including walking, cooking, or going up and down a flight of stairs are extremely tiring.
Being tired often is among the first symptoms diagnosed in people who have metastatic cancer.
Bone Metastases: Statistics show that a majority of people only learn that they have metastatic breast cancer after suffering from a fracture. The bones become weak and brittle, where a minor injury causes them to break.
Brain Metastases: Cancer spreading to the brain is a rare occurrence, but it’s still something to worry about. When it spreads to the brain, you’ll experience dizziness, pounding headaches, and personality changes. Also, seizures can happen.
Depression: It comes as no surprise that patients suffering from cancer are prone to depression. To get over this mental state, most psychiatrists advise patients to seek support from either a health professional or from their loved ones.
Unintentional Weight Loss: After suffering from metastatic breast cancer, you will have drastic weight loss at some point. It’s linked to muscle deterioration as well as the loss of appetite.
Once the cancer cells spread to the liver, you’ll lose all desire to eat, and you’ll drastically start losing weight.
Malignant Growths: Also known as liver metastases, is when the cancer cells attack and take over the liver, the activity makes one suffer from excruciating abdominal pain. You will likely start vomiting, and for some, their skin starts turning yellow as the liver is unable to function correctly.
Lung Metastases: Once the cancer reaches the liver, it proceeds to the lungs where the patient develops a chronic cough, suffers from shortness of breath, and finally, the lungs fill up with fluid making breathing a stressful experience.
Metastasis Breast Cancer Treatment Options
Below, we go through several treatment options that are used in treating both early and late-stage breast cancer.
Chemotherapy: In most treatment plans, chemotherapy is the first-line course of action used to treat metastatic breast cancer. The powerful medications have been designed to kill the cancer cell growth.
Using this treatment the tumors shrink faster, and for some people, they disappear entirely. Unfortunately, there are downsides to using this form of therapy, for starters, the drugs are potent, and patients often feel depleted thoroughly after going through each cancer session.
Targeted Therapy: This is another treatment type that involves the use of individual drugs. However, this treatment is used to stop the spread of cancer cells.
The medicine used bypasses healthy cells and only attacks the cancerous ones, thus leaving the patient a bit stronger than the previous type of treatment. Unfortunately, there are side effects to consider, including high blood pressure and blood clotting.
Radiation Therapy: A form of treatment recommended once the cancer cells move to other parts of the body. The high doses of radiation destroy the cells by damaging their DNA, thus making this type of treatment effective for treating different parts of the body.
Unfortunately, while the treatment is underway, some of your healthy cells will be vaporized during the process. The body will then use a lot of energy to rebuild the surrounding tissue, and you will be advised to include a sizable amount of calories in your diet to speed up the healing process.
Surgery: Surgery bypasses any other form of cancer treatment by several centuries. Many medical experts combine both surgery and radiotherapy treatment to treat cancer. The surgical procedure is used in removing the malignant tumors, while radiotherapy ensures that the cancer cells are vaporized completely.
The downside is the pain, the risk of infection, and the feeling of weakness that comes with this treatment format; patients are advised to rest for around four to eight weeks to regain their strength back.
Living with metastatic breast cancer is difficult, there are ways to beat it. Daily, researchers are coming close to finding permanent solutions.
However, we encourage you to conduct your research into things such as early-stage metastatic breast cancer warnings and treatment options, as well as material on understanding metastatic breast cancer.