More on Metastatic Breast Cancer

The most advanced stage of breast cancer is metastatic breast cancer. The affected person has minimum survival rate or minimum life expectancy as compared to other stages of cancer. Many women are being diagnosed with breast cancer all over the world which is also one of the most common causes of cancer deaths. In the lobules which are the milk making glands and the ducts, which are tubes that carry the milk to the nipple, when malignant increase of epithelial cells, the condition is called breast cancer. Between the ages of 45 and 55 it is seen that many women are commonly affected.

Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced type of breast cancer and is also called Stage IV cancer. It is a condition in which different regions of the body have the cancer cells due to rapid spreading action of the affected cells from the original tumor site. This means that the cancer cells from the breast area spread to other regions of the body. The cells take root in almost any part of the body, as they travel through the blood vessels and the lymphatic system. Distant metastases reach up to different organs like the liver, lungs and the bones, while metastases normally spread to areas close to the breast.

As far as bone Metastases is concerned there are two types of bone cancer – osteolytic and osteoblastic cancer. Holes are caused in bones making them susceptible to fractures and breaks in osteolytic cancer. The density of bones increases in osteoblastic cancer and makes the bones to prone to breaks and fractures. Severe pain is the outcome in both forms of cancer. When cancer cells start growing within the lungs, lung metastases occurs. When cancer cells start multiplying within the tissues of the liver, liver metastases develops.

Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer:

Metastatic breast cancer  symptoms are many. The affected person develops a breast ulcer or a breast lump. There is itching or scaling which is called pruritus on the nipple, continuous itching in breast skin, sudden increase in the mature size of breast, regional pain and weight loss, sudden discharge from the nipples, bone fractures and bone pain and change in the texture and color of the areola are all potential signs.

Diagnosis and treatment of metastatic breast cancer:

A staging process has to be undergone by the patient. This includes imaging tests like bone scan, chest X-ray, C T scan, mammogram, and MRI scan to diagnose the location and size of the cancer. The staging process includes tests like biopsy and clinical breast exams. Focus is on extending the metastatic breast cancer life expectancy and providing relief to the patient as it is impossible to kill of the existing cancer cells. As far as the treatment of this cancer is concerned, it could slow down the growth of cancer cells and may shrink the existing tumors. Surgery is followed by radiation as well as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. The treatment aims the local regions as well as the organs to which the cancer has metastasized.

Life expectancy and prognosis:

It is the type of treatment received that determines the life expectancy of a metastasis breast cancer patient. Life expectancy in a woman can be 2 to 3 years as revealed by statistics. It is seen that about 30% of these cases go on to live for 5 years and even after 10 years 10% do survive! Life expectancy of metastatic breast cancer or the survival rate of a patient diagnosed with this IV stage breast cancer if 20%. It is on the amount of metastasis, location of the tumor, the stage between the relapse and the organ affected that the prognosis for stage IV breast cancer mainly depends.

Research on breast cancer indicates that the 5 year survival rate for women affected by breast cancer is around 80%. Approximately 88% of the women detected early with the disease survive longer, say for about the next ten years. With the advancement in methods of treatment, screening and staging, survival rates or metastasis breast cancer life expectancy have improved fortunately.

As long as cancer limits itself to the breast area only, it is considered as ‘clinically safe’ cancer. In metastasis breast cancer, the cancer spreads to other parts of the body which is dangerous particularly when vital organs such as kidney, liver, intestine etc are infected. Prognosis of this cancer depends on the individual health of the immune system of the person. If the prognosis is bad it does not mean that you have lesser time left. In spite of having a not so good prognosis it has been reported that many patients live a quality and healthy life for years. Your spirit to fight cancer should not be affected by a bad prognosis, ever.

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More Treatment

New hope is brought to those afflicted with breast cancer in recent years with medical advances being made and breast cancer treatment. Surgical methods are used in mastectomy and lumpectomy which is followed by hormone therapy, radiation therapy and if required chemotherapy. During a lifetime, one in every eight women is affected by breast cancer, a cancer which is also referred to as breast carcinoma. The highest type of cancer after lung cancer is breast cancer which kills thousands of women the world over.

Some women seem to be susceptible to breast cancer, and there are certain risk factors they are most exposed to, but nobody knows for sure why. There are some risks that cannot be helped! There are personal risk factors, genetic factors, age factors, and many other risks. As far as personal risk factors, the phase during menopause after the age of 55, and that before the age of 12 is among the leading personal risk factors. The risk of getting breast cancer is increased greatly with the presence of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 which are genetic factors. If there have been incidences of breast cancer amongst any member in the family it is advisable for women to get themselves tested.

The chances of getting breast cancer are increased with advancing age. Being childless, having a child after 35 years of age, having dense breasts, being overweight or on hormone replacement therapy, using birth control pills, consuming alcohol are some of the risks associated with breast cancer. Though the number of cases is not alarming, breast cancer does affect men too. A lump formation in the breast, changes in the size or shape of the breast, fluid discharge from the nipple are some of the symptoms of breast cancer.

Methods of breast cancer treatment:

Lumpectomy and Mastectomy:

One of the main methods of breast cancer treatment is surgery. Even after more than a century, this treatment is still popular and is usually succeeded by breast cancer radiation treatment. Along with hormone therapy several patients may also need chemotherapy. In lumpectomy the tissue that is cancerous is surgically removed followed by radiation. Lumpectomy is also called breast conserving surgery. Mastectomy is removing the breast surgically. Along with subsequent tests checking for cancer in the lymph nodes located near the affected breast, both these types of surgeries can be combined. Things have changed a fair amount as far as breast surgery like mastectomy and lumpectomy is concerned in the recent years. The objective of most surgeries today is to preserve as much healthy part of the breast along with the tissues surrounding the breast as possible. Today mastectomy or removal of breast is a more refined procedure of breast cancer treatment and a far less drastic option than it used to be decades back.

Radiation therapy:

As far as radiation therapy is concerned it is a targeted and highly effective method of destroying the cells of cancer which remain after the surgery. On the effected part like the lymph nodes and the breast area, beams of high energy radiation are concentrated. Both cancer cells as well as normal cells get damaged when they are in the beam’s path. Concentrated radiation affects cancer cells more as compared to normal cells. Cancer cells grow and make new cells at a faster rate. These two activities make cancer cells vulnerable to the damaging effects of radiation. Besides this, as compared to healthy cells, cancer cells are less organized. It is more difficult for these cells to recover by repairing themselves hence these cells get destroyed by radiation very easily. Normal cells are able to survive as they are able to repair themselves better.

Chemotherapy and hormone therapy:

Chemotherapy goes through the blood stream which means that the whole body is affected. From the original location of the cancer, some of the cancer cells spread to some other parts of the body, and the purpose of this breast cancer treatment is to kill cancer cells. This treatment is effective because the drugs hinder rapid division of cells. Cells in the intestinal tract, blood, mouth, nails, nose, vagina and hair also divide rapidly and these too are affected in this treatment. For the treatment to be easier on the system, these days chemo has been refined.

Against hormone receptor positive breast cancer, home therapy is a highly effective breast cancer treatment. It is used to block the turning on ability of the hormone estrogen and also stimulate the growth of cancer cells. This treatment is also referred to anti estrogen therapy sometimes. Cancer affects the lives of women physically as well as mentally hence they are more concerned about breast cancer than other types of cancer. By self examining the breast, clinical breast examination and mammograms it becomes easier to trace and treat this dreaded cancer.

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More Symptoms

Treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer has been possible due to public support in the awareness of breast cancer. Early detection of breast cancer and better treatments has reduced the number of mortality rates and the survival rates of breast cancer have improved significantly.

An accelerated type of breast cancer is IBC or inflammatory breast cancer. This cancer cannot be detected by a mammogram or by ultrasound. Almost one to three percent of all breast cancers are inflammatory breast cancers, though IBC is a relatively rare form of cancer. The affected breast becomes swollen and inflamed, which is one of the signs of this type of a breast cancer. The cancer cells block the lymphatic cells that exist under the breast skin which results in blockage of lymph flow, leading to inflamed redness which is also termed as mastitis. All these are characteristics of inflammatory breast cancer.


In inflammatory breast cancer a lump generally does not occur and the person cannot even feel the lump, unlike the other types of breast cancer. The cancer develops as nests or sheets which clog up the lymphatic system underneath the skin. The symptoms are very often attributed to other diseases such as an infection and it is because of this that the diagnosis of inflammatory cancer takes a very long time. There are a number of breast cancer symptoms which need to be looked at seriously. A tumor is formed in the cells of breasts, which is called cancer of the breast. Though breast cancer is more widespread in women it may happen to both men as well as women. Right from changes in the skin to swelling in the breasts, breast cancer symptoms vary widely. An infection or a cyst might be the outcome of a non cancerous situation and the symptoms are very much like signs of breast cancer.

Changes and pain in the breast:

Many a times the inflammation in the breast is often mistaken as an infection which is then treated with antibiotics. It is when the inflammation refuses to subside that you need to get a referral to a specialist in breast cancer. You will need to ask for a breast biopsy too. There is a lot of redness in either whole or part of the breast which is one of the most distinctive characteristics of inflammatory breast cancer. Redness may come and go. The area of the breast may also become warm. The breast skin thickens and the texture of skin turns to that of an orange peel, along with redness on the breast. There can be bruises that do not go away easily. Discharge from the nipple and retraction of the nipple are the other breast cancer symptoms. The breast suddenly swells up and there is itching sensation. Also there is swelling in the lymph nodes in the underarm and neck. Many women affected by inflammatory breast cancer have a mass lump in the breast which cannot be easily detected in a breast examination. The breast becomes harder than normal thus making detection difficult. Within a period of few weeks breast cancer symptoms occur.

Diagnosis of breast cancer:

It is because of the nature of the breast cancer symptoms that diagnosis becomes difficult. An infection is commonly the cause of a breast getting red and swollen. Infection is the first thing diagnosed by any doctor. Breast feeding can cause infections and such infections subside with proper antibiotic treatment. However antibiotics do not get any response from breast cancer. A physical examination is conducted primarily, and mammogram, breast MRI, and ultrasound are also prescribed once breast cancer symptoms are noticed.

To confirm the diagnosis a biopsy is usually recommended. Although the redness and swelling worsens, there are some cases where a biopsy of inflammatory breast cancer comes back clear. This shows that to get an accurate diagnosis and to confirm diagnosis is rather tricky. For inflammatory breast cancer, chemotherapy is used as an upfront treatment which can be followed by radiation and then surgery. Also anti-estrogen and Herceptin may be used. Therapies like Avastin also have a major role to play in the treatment of inflammatory breast cancer. Depending on each individual case the sequence as well as the kind of treatment is defined.

As part of the monthly health concern routine of every woman, self examination of the breast should be compulsory. In case any changes are experienced in the breast, you must visit a physician immediately. At greater risks are women over forty and hence they should get a mammogram done every year as well as a physical check up by a physician. Chances of beating this cancer are better, when breast cancer symptoms are noticed at the earliest. Research and personal assimilation of medical breakthroughs help a lot in remaining well informed and better prepared.

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