Earlier this month we told you that October is breast cancer awareness month. We stressed the importance of self-breast exams and getting a mammogram, and to spread the word to all the women you know. Well today we want you to be aware of Metastatic breast cancer. What this means is when people already have breast cancer, but then it moves to other parts of the body.
My husband's mother had breast cancer, and had a mastectomy; however, the cancer metastasized to her liver and other organs, and eventually claimed her life. Symptoms of Metastatic breast cancer include:
The symptoms produced by metastatic breast cancer vary by the location of the metastases. For instance:
- Metastatic disease to the bone causes severe, progressive pain, and, less commonly, pathological fracture, erythema over the affected bone, and swelling;
- Metastatic breast cancer to the brain causes the following symptoms: persistent, progressively worsening headache, visual changes, seizures, nausea or vomiting, vertigo, behavioral and personality changes, and increased intracranial pressure.
- Metastatic disease to the liver causes jaundice elevated liver enzymes, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
- Metastatic breast cancer to the lung or pleura causes chronic cough, dyspnea, abnormal chest X-ray, and chest pain; and
- Other nonspecific systemic symptoms of metastatic breast cancer include fatigue, malaise, weight loss, and poor appetite
Treatment can include several things such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and even alternative treatments such as homeopathic therapy.
According to copingmag.com, here are some unknown facts about Metastatic Breast Cancer:
- No one dies from breast cancer that remains in the breast. The lump itself is not what kills. The metastasis of cancerous cells to a vital organ is what kills.
- Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to different parts of the body, typically the bones, liver, lungs and brain.
- An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
- Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is lifelong and focuses on control and quality of life vs. curative intent. (“Treatable but unbeatable.”)
- About 6% to 10% of people are Stage IV from their initial diagnosis.
- Early detection is not a cure. Metastatic breast cancer can occur ANY time after a person’s original diagnosis, EVEN if the patient was initially Stage 0, I, II or III and DESPITE getting annual checkups and annual mammograms.
- Between 20% to 30% of people initially diagnosed with regional stage disease WILL develop metastatic breast cancer.
- Young people DO get metastatic breast cancer.
- There are many different kinds of metastatic breast cancer.
- Treatment choices for MBC are guided by hormone (ER/PR) and HER2 receptor status, location and extent of metastasis (visceral vs. non-visceral), previous treatment and other factors.
- Metastatic breast cancer isn’t an automatic death sentence. Although most people will ultimately die of their disease, some can live long and productive lives.
- There are no hard and fast prognostic statistics for metastatic breast cancer. Everyone’s situation is unique, but according to the American Cancer Society, the 5 year survival rate for stage IV is around 20%.
- October 13 is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. We appreciate your support on October 13 and throughout the year.