Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer
The term cancer, unheard of a few decades ago has become something very familiar in the recent past. Thanks to our modern unhealthy lifestyles! This dreadful disease strikes a majority of the global population belonging to all walks of life, age, impartial to every human being from children, men and women. When it comes to women, many of them during their reproductive and menopausal years are often susceptible to cancer. They are often the target for cancers of the ovaries, cervix with cancer affecting the breasts being most common. Therefore, in this article, we shall analyse a few facts about Metastatic breast cancer that with rapid progression is fast becoming a force to reckon with.
What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer?
An advanced stage of Breast cancer often classified as stage 4 and spread far beyond the breast is known as metastatic breast cancer. The term “Metastatic” signifies a cancerous tumour that has spread from its place of origin (primary) to other organs of the body.
Which Type of Cancer Metastasise Tumours?
Almost all types of cancer have a possible risk of causing metastatic tumours. These include cancers of the lymphatic system and blood such as lymphoma, leukaemia and multiple myeloma. However, in rare cases these types of cancers have the possibility of metastasising in the central nervous system, heart, lung and other body tissues and cells.
What Are The Stages Of Metastatic Breast Cancer?
During the early stages breast cancer begins in the breast ducts as ductal carcinoma in situ. These cancer cells then infiltrate into the blood stream and the lymphatic systems respectively. They then circulate in the lymph and blood vessels only to remain within the blood vessels and capillaries in distance locations and multiply to form small multiple tumours. These multiple tumours that form in other places are referred to as micrometastases.
How Does Breast Cancer Spread or Metastasize?
Breast cancer has a tendency to spread from the breast to the auxiliary lymph nodes in the armpits. Nevertheless, in certain cases, there is a possible hazard of the cancer cells affecting other major organs of the body without actually involving the auxiliary nodes.
The cancerous tumours located near the nipple (medial portion) have an inclination to spread to the internal mammary nodes located between the sternum and the ribs.
There are other possible ways too when these cancerous cells spread to the circulatory system. Nevertheless, despite this condition they might remain undetected in the lymphatic system, in some cases. It reaches stage 4 when it affects most distant organs in the body and multiplies into tiny tumours known as micrometastases. This stimulates and produces new blood vessels to derive blood, oxygen supply and required nutrients for sustenance and growth.
Where Do They Spread?
The most common site for Breast cancer metastasis is the bones, brain, lungs and liver.
What Are The Symptoms Of Metastatic Breast Cancer?
In many instances, metastatic tumours have no symptoms at all except through blood tests and x-rays. However, the symptoms of Metastatic breast cancer depend upon the location of metastasis.
Metastasis in the bone affects the legs, arms, spine, ribs and skull. In the osteolytic metastasis that occurs mainly in the pelvis, hips and legs the cancer cells destroys the bone and forms holes. Another type of bone metastasis is osteoblastic that produces fractures despite an increase in the bone mineral density. Both conditions have a tendency to trigger severe pain that increases gradually. Besides this, there are instances of swelling with susceptibility to fractures and broken bones. Other complications of bone metastasis include high levels of calcium in the body known as hypercalcemia, compression of the spinal cord, which occurs because of vertebral damage.
Breast Cancer cells that metas
tasise in the brain lead to seizures ,vision disturbances, constant headaches combined with a sense of heaviness, often displaying changes in personality and behavioural patterns ,
nausea and vomiting.
Breast cancer cells that spread to the lungs report an abnormal chest x-ray with symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath and persistent dry cough.
Metastatic breast cancer that reach the liver show symptoms of abdominal pain, elevated levels of liver enzymes, vomiting, nausea, lack of appetite, skin rash itching and jaundice with yellowing of the skin.
One of the major concerns of metastatic breast cancer is fatigue. This occurs for a majority of the individuals due to decreased levels of red blood cells that arise owing to anaemia.
Another concern happens to be depression and insomnia. Being active and managing everyday activities along with plenty of rest would surely help relieve these symptoms.
Constant unbearable pain is another factor for women suffering from metastatic breast cancer. It is generally kept under control with medications.
Other common symptoms include weight loss reduced activity and fatigue, which may be a side effect of medication, anxiety or depression.
Nevertheless, in most instances the primary cancer is revealed only after a metastatic tumour becomes problematic and shows any indication of one or more symptoms.
What Are The Characteristic Features Of Primary And Metastatic Breast Cancer Cells?
Metastatic breast cancer and primary cancers fall under the same category for both types of cells have many similarities as in their molecular characteristics specific proteins or in displaying chromosome changes. With metastases, the cancer cells turn the normal cells nearby into unhealthy, abnormal cancer cells. However, despite that it would need treatment for the primary cancer only. Besides this, the non-cancerous cells at the place of primary cancer have the ability to obstruct metastasis of cancer cells, in certain cases. Although the cancer cells reach a distant location in the body, it may not in all cases cause form metastatic tumours. When they form, they have a tendency at times to remain latent before they start developing.
Can Metastatic Cancer Occur Without Primary Cancer?
There are absolutely no possibilities of metastatic breast cancer occurring without incidences of primary cancer. Most primary cancers are detected through the various lab tests, mammogram, x-rays, CT (computed tomography) scan, positron emission tomography (PET scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
What Are The Types Of Treatments For Metastatic Breast Cancer?
Treatment for Metastatic breast cancer aims at tumour growth restriction in order to lengthen life span and enhance quality of life.
The following are some of the treatments for metastatic breast cancer
- Hormone therapy
- Biological therapy
- Targeted therapy (Anti-HER2/neu)
- Surgery and
- Radiation therapy
The types and nature of treatment depends upon various factors that include the characteristics of the cancerous cells, the place, symptoms of metastasis, size and the extent of metastatic cell multiplication, previous treatments for breast cancer, age and general health condition of the individual.