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.