Metastatic breast cancer means that breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Also known as secondary or late breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer can develop when the first cancer treatment has not been effective. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. Breast cancer can affect both men and women, but it is much more common in women.
Breast cancer may also spread if it was already advanced by the time it was diagnosed, for example, because the cancer was aggressive or did not cause any noticeable symptoms.
Cancer spreads as the cancer cells grow and move beyond their original location. They begin to affect the lymph nodes, the bloodstream, and various organs. Changes usually begin in the lungs, brain, liver, and bones.
A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer is expected to cause anxiety and stress. However, with proper care, many people with this condition can maintain a good quality of life.
When breast cancer has spread outside the area of the body where it started, 27% of people still live for at least 5 years, according to the American Cancer Society.
Symptoms of Metastatic breast cancer
The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer depend on the organs that have been affected by cancer. It often spreads to the brain, bones, lungs, or liver.
If metastatic breast cancer affects the brain, it can cause headaches and impaired vision.
Depending on the affected area of the brain, metastatic breast cancer can occur:
If cancer spreads to the bones, it can cause it:
an increased risk of fractures
When cancer spreads to the lungs, it often shows no symptoms, but it can be the cause:
shortness of breath
coughing up blood
If cancer spreads to the liver, that could be the cause:
yellowing of the skin
an appetite loss
itchy skin or a rash
vomiting and nausea
Other general symptoms of metastatic breast cancer may be:
an appetite loss
These symptoms may result from the condition, from a depression associated with the condition, or as side effects of medication.
Learning to recognize these symptoms and making a diagnosis early can ensure that a person receives the right treatment quickly. This can improve both the quality and duration of a person’s life.
Tips for living with metastatic breast cancer
Living with advanced cancer can be difficult for the individual, his family, and friends. The American Cancer Society recommends the following strategies for dealing with cancer:
Learn as much as you can about the condition and what to expect.
Understand that it is not possible to control every side of cancer.
Learn ways to let go of feelings and fears, for example, by talking about it.
Make time for important things, such as spending time with loved ones.
Eat healthily and practice when you can.
Look for ways to relax and do things that bring pleasure.
Participate in support groups as much as possible.
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