Advanced breast cancer—also known as metastatic breast cancer and stage 4 breast cancer—means that a patient’s tumor has spread to other tissues and organs in the body. In a majority of cases, breast cancer spreads to the bones, liver, lungs, or even brain. The spread of a breast tumor is referred to as metastasis.
How Breast Cancer Metastasize
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a tumor typically metastasizes in the following ways:
Malignant cells attack close-by healthy cells. This happens when cancerous cells invade healthy cells upon which they also begin to multiply in the form of abnormal cells.
Malignant cells can enter the circulatory or lymphatic system where they move through the surrounding blood vessels. Movement through blood flow is also how cancerous cells get transported through the lymph system and penetrate other areas of the body.
Malignant cells can also get embedded in tiny blood vessels. Upon getting stuck in blood vessels, the cancer cells then split and move into nearby tissues. New malignant growths begin to form. Malignant cells prompt the formation of small growths in their new place, which is known as micrometastases.
Advanced Breast Cancer Symptoms
Every breast cancer patient experiences different symptoms depending on where the tumor spreads to and the extent of its invasion. You must discuss all the symptoms you exhibit with your oncologist.
Patients exhibit symptoms according to the site that the tumor is in. When a breast tumor spreads to the bones, patients typically experience symptoms such as inflammation, intense pain that worsens with time, and bone fractures.
When the cancer spreads to the brain, symptoms may include a gradually intensifying, stubborn headache, vision problems, nausea, seizures, and changes in behavior.
If your breast cancer metastasizes to the lungs, you may experience a persistent cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, as well as secondary symptoms such as lethargy, a decrease in appetite, and weight loss.
If the tumor spreads to the liver, patients may experience symptoms such stomach pain, loss of appetite, jaundice, rashes or itching, and nausea. When a breast tumor metastasizes to the liver, this can also lead to an increase in the level of enzymes found in the liver.
Featured Image: DepositPhotos/ WavebreakmediaPosted on May 9, 2018