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The Basics of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Second to Nature Explores Breast Cancer Spreading, or Metastasizing

This month, Second To Natures explaining the basics of metastatic breast cancer. Physicians find breast cancer in the breast and/or nearby lymph nodes. In most cases, localized breast cancer comes with an early stage diagnosis, where it won’t spread or metastasize. In these early stages—stages zero through three—a lumpectomy and radiation work best to eliminate tumors. Catching breast cancer early can help prevent growths from becoming metastatic.

What is Important to Know if Breast Cancer Metastasizes to Stage Four?

If breast cancer spreads, or metastasizes, that likely means it’s reached stage four or later.  According to, six percent of women in the U.S. have metastatic breast cancer when they’re initially diagnosed. Metastatic breast cancer symptoms and signs depend on where and how much the cancer has metastasized.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Can Spread to Other Areas of the Body 

If breast cancer spreads, or metastasizes, it eventually impacts specific areas of the body. General signs that cancer has metastasized include loss of appetite, unexplainable weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Most commonly, metastatic, or stage four breast cancer impacts the bones, liver, lungs, and/or brain.

Learn the Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer

When breast cancer spreads to the bones, symptoms include back, neck, or joint pain, swelling, and easily created bone fractures. Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and constant dry cough indicate metastasized breast cancer to the lungs. If cancer spreads to the liver, symptoms include skin and eye jaundice as well as belly pain or swelling. Symptoms of metastasized breast cancer to the brain include seizures, dizziness, personality changes, and loss of balance. Frequent headaches, confusion, and loss of vision also indicate stage four or metastatic breast cancer in the brain.

Know the Types of Systemic Therapy to Treat Metastatic Breast Cancer

Systemic therapy is when doctors use medication to eradicate breast cancer cells through the bloodstream to reach throughout the body. This method serves to treat stage four or metastatic breast cancer, but not necessarily cure it. Patients may receive one systemic therapy at a time or a combination, depending on how severe the cancer has metastasized. A common systemic therapy given to treat metastatic breast cancer is chemotherapy. Other examples of systemic therapy used when cancer spreads include hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.


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