Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer, And How It’s Treated

Metastatic breast cancer, also known as stage four breast cancer, is a serious condition with a five-year survival rate of just 22 percent. Understanding the early signs of this aggressive cancer and learning how it can be treated can help prolong your life.

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Armend Nimani /AFP via Getty Images
Armend Nimani /AFP via Getty Images

Understanding The Signs Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Various types of cancer lead to general fatigue and metastatic breast cancer is no different. If you suddenly start to feel tired throughout the day, have trouble waking up, and fall asleep much earlier than normal, you should talk to your health provider.

Tiredness is listed among the very first symptoms associated with this form of cancer.

Weight Loss For No Reason Is A Troubling Sign

Suddenly losing weight might feel good but that weight loss could be the result of muscle deterioration caused by metastatic breast cancer. The weight loss is a result of the disease and can also be contributed to by sudden appetite loss which is another sign of the disease.

During the late stages of breast cancer, the spread of the disease to your liver can also contribute to even more dramatic weight loss.

Sudden Onset Depression

When entering the later stages of breast cancer a sudden onset of depression may occur, even if you have never suffered from depression in the past. Since depression is a serious condition by itself, if you feel depressed you should speak to a healthcare provider immediately.

Signs To Watch For When Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Spreading

As stage four breast cancer becomes more aggressive it may start to spread throughout your body. One of the most common areas of concern is the liver. Malignant growths on the liver or liver metastases can cause intense abdominal pain. As the liver becomes infected patients often see yellowing of their skin. You may also start to experience vomiting at this point.

Bone Metastases And What To Watch Out For

If you suddenly suffer a bone fracture seek medical attention immediately. Late-stage cancer attacking your bones can make them brittle and even the most minor of injuries can cause breaks.

Lung Spread From Late0Stage Breast Cancer

When Metastatic Breast Cancer has reached the lungs the results are not always immediately severe. You may start to notice a slight but persistent cough and mild shortness of breath. As the disease spreads over time it can cause more severe breathing issues.

Other areas of spread can also occur. We have highlighted some of the most common areas to help you understand the urgency in speaking with a healthcare provider whenever something doesn’t feel right in your body.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Options

When first diagnosed with cancer the go-to treatment option to first battle the disease is chemotherapy. A combination of drugs are used to attack the cancer in an attempt to kill cancer cells.

Targeted therapy is another option and also relies on drugs to attack cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapy aims to stop the growth of new cancer cells. Targeted therapy won’t attack healthy cells which often means a less tiring experience for patients.

Radiation is a common breast cancer treatment when cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Radiation therapy aims to destroy cancer cells DNA. Radiation treatment will destroy surrounding healthy cells which often leads to exhausting in patients. Radiation therapy is most often paired with a special diet prescribed by your doctor.

Finally, surgery is often combined with the treatments listed above. Removing cancerous tumors helps ensure a higher rate of recovery. If you undergo surgical removal you are likely to receive radiation therapy to attack cancer further.

Not every type of treatment will work for every patient. Your doctor will help create a plan that can provide a longer period of survival and potentially a cure. Ultimately, receiving a proper screening and catching your cancer as early as possible will help with a better long-term prognosis.

References: Mayo Clinic, BreastCancer.org, National Breast Cancer Foundation