When a tumor or any other illness grows and spreads from its point of origin to other parts of the body, it is called metastasis. Similarly, metastatic breast cancer occurs when the cancerous cells from the breast spread to other body parts.
In most cases, if breast cancer metastasizes, it is likely to appear in the following regions:
If the cancer is confined to the breast, several effective treatment options are available to cure it. However, if it spreads to the nearby areas, it becomes quite difficult to cure. Therefore, it is vital to spot the signs of metastatic breast cancer as soon as possible to ensure that suitable treatment can start immediately.
Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer
The initial stages of breast cancer typically do not exhibit any symptoms. Once the symptoms begin to appear, they are most likely to include a strange formation or lump in the breast or under the armpits.
In the case of inflammatory breast cancer, the symptoms can include redness or swelling in and around the breast area as well as a mild sensation of pain.
When breast cancer metastasizes, a patient may experience the following symptoms:
- Development of a lump
- Changes in the skin such as skin ulceration or dimpling
- Nipple discharge
- Pain or discomfort while moving the arms
- Swelling in the breast or arms
- Large, hard, and deep lymph nodes under the arm or the neck.
Also, the most common signs of metastatic breast cancer are easily noticeable changes in the shape of the affected breast.
Here are some advanced symptoms of the condition:
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Excessive fatigue
- Digestion problems
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety or depression
- A feeling of pain or discomfort
Some significant signs of metastatic breast cancer
One of the most common signs of metastatic breast cancer is difficulty in breathing. It is an indication that the tumor has spread to the lungs. In such a case, one may also experience episodes of chronic coughing or acute pain in the chest.
If the breast cancer has spread to the liver, one may experience the following symptoms:
- Itchy and scaly skin
- Abnormalities in the functioning of the liver
- Abdominal pain
If the tumor spreads to the bones, it results in the weakening of the entire system. The body becomes more prone to fractures.
Lastly, if cancer metastasizes to the brain, a patient may face a lot of problems. Besides headaches and seizures, some of the most common signs of metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the brain include the following:
- Behavioral changes
- Changes in vision
- Feeling of nausea
- Difficulty in walking and balancing
- Personality changes
Symptoms present during the late stages of metastatic breast cancer
As the disease progresses, a lot of patients have to opt for palliative care. At this stage, the doctors usually stop all the cancer treatments and focus on offering optimal care and improving the quality of life of the patient by managing their symptoms.
The common symptoms at this stage include:
Most cancer patients face this symptom. The feeling of fatigue seems never-ending, and despite sleeping for hours, a patient may feel like they have no energy. The patient may feel exhausted and drained all the time.
Metastatic breast cancer causes a lot of pain and discomfort among patients. They may also experience a feeling of heaviness in the chest that makes it difficult for them to do anything else.
- Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
Owing to the progression of the disease, the patient’s body may slow down. As a result, it demands lesser food too, leading to loss of weight.
- Anxiety and depression
Because the disease becomes terminal, people usually develop a fear of the unknown. It is best for patients to indulge in spiritual guidance, meditation or counseling to cope with this symptom.
- Other symptoms
The last stage of the disease may be characterized by troubles in breathing and swallowing food.
The best way to combat the signs of metastatic breast cancer is following the advice of the doctor. One needs to be explicit about their symptoms as the doctor determines the line of treatment based on this. One must consult a doctor immediately after witnessing any sign of metastatic breast cancer as it increases the possibility of recovery.
Metastatic breast cancer is treatable for a specific length of time. Moreover, developments in medical technology are helping extend the lifespan as well as the quality of life of patients with this form of cancer. One can connect with their loved ones and join cancer support groups to find the motivation needed to cope up with this condition.