Metastatic Breast Cancer can develop in any part of the body. However, the most common regions include Bone, Brain, Lung, and Liver. No matter where breast cancer spreads it is still considered Breast Cancer. In most cases, metastatic cancer responds to the same treatment to which the primary tumor responded.
Cancer forms when healthy cells turn abnormal and multiply at an uncontrollable rate leading to the formation of tumour in some part of the body. Cancer can occur anywhere in the body – treatment is determined based on the location of the tumour, its size, and the rate at which it is growing/spreading. When some cells from one tumour break off and spread to another part of the body, they may cause a secondary tumour at a new location that is away from the primary tumour site. This indicates that the cancer has metastasised. Such a metastatic cancer may appear months or even years after the primary tumour has been eliminated. Routine follow-ups with the doctor even after cancer has been ‘cured’ will help detect metastatic cancer earlier on.
When the primary tumour is found in the breast or lymph nodes near the breast, it is called Breast Cancer. A cancerous tumour will grow and spread and needs to be treated immediately. A benign tumour may grow but it will not spread to other parts of the body and is not life-threatening. As long as the malignant tumour remains in the breast, the cancer is still in its early stages and can be treated successfully. However, once the cancer begins to spread beyond the breast or appears much further away like in the brain or liver, then the cancer has metastasised and is in an advanced stage. Treatment can be complicated.
Metastatic Breast Cancer can develop in any part of the body. However, the most common regions include Bone, Brain, Lung and Liver. No matter where the breast cancer spreads it is still considered as Breast Cancer. If it occurs in the Brain, it is called Metastatic Breast Cancer and not brain cancer. And in most cases, the metastatic cancer responds to the same treatment to which the primary tumour responded because inherently they are the same family of cells – only at a different location.
Metastatic Breast Cancer in the Bones:
It can affect any bone including the spine, arms, and legs. The main symptom would be pain. If the cancer is in the spine, it can result numbness in your limbs if there is pressure being exerted on the spinal nerves.
Metastatic Breast Cancer in the Brain:
When breast cancer spreads to the brain it can affect cognitive ability and impacts motor skills. It can also cause intense headaches and even numbness in certain body parts.
Metastatic Breast Cancer in the Liver:
When metastatic breast cancer occurs in the liver it can cause stomach pain, bloating, loss of appetite, unintended weight loss or even yellowing of the skin and sclera (jaundice).
Metastatic Breast Cancer in the Lungs:
This can lead to fluid build up in the lungs. Subsequent symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, persistent cough, and loss of weight.
Treatment options for Metastatic Breast Cancer are usually Systemic (drug) treatments that include Hormone Therapy, Chemotherapy, Targeted Therapy, Immunotherapy, or a combination of a couple of these.
Radiation Therapy and/or Surgery may be required if there are a few metastases in a certain region, to prevent bone fractures, to treat blood vessel blockages in the liver, when the cancer is in the spinal cord and is compressing nerves or to help with pain management.
Metastatic Breast Cancer is essentially a very advanced stage of Breast Cancer and cannot be cured. However, it can be treated. Advanced options of treatment have made it possible for women to live with the condition, treating it as a chronic illness.
SENIOR CONSULTANT – RADIATION ONCOLOGY
MBBS, MD R.T,