Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer, also referred to as stage four breast cancer, is extremely serious. It has the ability to spread throughout the body.

Although the five-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer is only 22 percent, aggressive treatment can help you to live longer.1

Where Can Breast Cancer Spread?

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, it often takes years for the disease to spread. This is why women who have early-stage breast cancer tend to have such a high survival rate.2

When cancer does start to spread, virtually every region of the body is at risk. However, some parts are more prone than others. This includes the brain, lungs, liver, and, especially, the bones.

What are the Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer?

Extreme Fatigue

Like most types of cancer, metastatic cancer causes serious fatigue. Even after getting a good night’s sleep, sufferers often wake up feeling extremely drained. Even simple everyday activities, like walking and opening doors, could cause exhaustion. Of course, intense exercising will be virtually out of the question.

Constant tiredness is among the first symptoms of metastatic cancer.

Unintentional Weight Loss

When suffering from metastatic breast cancer, significant weight loss is bound to occur at some point. This weight loss is a direct result of muscle deterioration and the loss of appetite. Cancer tends to take away your desire to eat.

If the disease has reached the liver, you may start to scale down even more dramatically.

Depression

It’s certainly not uncommon for metastatic breast cancer to trigger depression. In order to overcome this state of unhappiness, you should seek the support of your loved ones and/or a health professional.

Liver Metastases (Malignant Growths)

If breast cancer advances to the liver, expect to experience intense abdominal pain. Vomiting is also likely to occur.

Because the liver is under the attack, your skin may start to yellow.

Bone Metastases

In many instances, people don’t realize they have metastatic breast cancer until they suffer a fracture.3 Their bones will be very weak and brittle. Even a seemingly minor injury may lead to a break.

Lung Metastases

Breast cancer that has reached the lungs typically progresses gradually. Although you may first develop a chronic cough and mild shortness of breath, it may eventually lead to a buildup of fluid within the lungs. Breathing will then be especially restricted.

Brain Metastases

Although cancer spreading to the brain does not happen as often, it naturally causes the most panic. The pounding headaches, dizziness, and personality changes will be hard to ignore. Seizures can occur as well.

How Do You Treat Metastatic Breast Cancer?

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is usually the first course of action. These extremely powerful medications are designed to kill the cancerous growths. When getting treated with chemotherapy, the tumors tend to shrink faster.

While chemotherapy can be effective, there are some downsides. Because the drugs are so potent, patients are likely to feel completely depleted after each session.4

Targeted Therapy

Similar to chemotherapy, target therapy involves the use of special drugs. However, the goal of target therapy is to prevent cancer cells from growing. These drugs don’t attack healthy cells. This means patients are able to avoid the exhaustion that accompanies chemo treatments.

While targeted therapy may seem like a good option, there are some side effects to consider. Problems with blood clotting and high blood pressure are rather common.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is recommended when breast cancer has spread to other regions. The high doses of radiation are meant to destroy the cancer cells by damaging their DNA. Therefore, it’s ideal for treating specific parts of the body.

Expect radiation therapy to damage some of your healthy cells during the process. Your body will expend a great deal of energy in rebuilding the surrounding tissue. Consuming enough calories in your diet becomes especially important. A doctor will instruct you on what to eat.5

Surgery

Surgery is older than any other cancer treatment.6

Surgery and radiation therapy usually go hand in hand. While surgery removes the malignant tumors, radiation therapy makes sure they don’t return.

Pain and the risk of infection are the two biggest issues with surgery. So, you’ll need at least three or four weeks to heal.

Final Thoughts

While living with metastatic breast cancer is a challenge, you can still overcome the odds. Each day, researchers are working hard to find new solutions. Do your own research to learn about the latest developments in breast cancer treatment.

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