What is metastatic breast cancer?
Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It is also sometimes called stage IV breast cancer. Patients with metastatic breast cancer need systemic treatments that don’t just target the site of the original tumor in the breast. Although there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, treatments can improve your quality of life and delay the progression of the disease.
Where does the cancer spread with metastatic breast cancer?
Breast cancer that metastasizes can spread anywhere in the body. However, it is most likely to go to a few specific locations. These include:
The cancer spreads to these organs when cells break off from the original tumor and then move though the body in the blood or through the lymphatic system. No matter where the new site of the cancer is, the cells that make up that tumor will be breast cells. Sometimes, this process happens during the course of treating the disease after your initial diagnosis. In other cases, metastatic breast cancer appears later, after your initial breast cancer was treated.
What are the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer?
The symptoms vary depending on the location of the new cancer. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all. When symptoms are present, they may include:
- Bone pain
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
In some cases, metastatic breast cancer is only diagnosed after a PET scan done for preventive care purposes discovers it.
What treatments are available?
Multiple treatments are used for metastatic breast cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy. Surgery is also sometimes recommended. Most people with metastatic breast cancer use a combination of treatments.
The treatments are not generally able to completely get rid of the cancer, but they can slow down the progression of the disease.
The women’s diagnostics and cancer teams at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center help patients at every stage of their battles with breast cancer, from diagnosis to treatment and recovery. Learn more about our cutting edge treatments and multidisciplinary cancer care in West Hills by calling (818) 676-4321.