Metastatic Or Secondary Breast Cancer

Secondary breast cancer may also be known as advanced breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer. It occurs when the cancer spreads from the original site to a secondary site. With no definite cure for secondary cancer it is all about management of the disease and sometimes for years all together.

Information that a person close to you has been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer and that too after years of remission of primary cancer may come as a complete shock. The sad part with secondary breast cancer is that there is no definite cure for it but the ‘GOOD NEWS’ is that it can be controlled and managed just like a chronic illness that may flare up once in a while. Except for the days when it flares up life of patients diagnosed with secondary breast cancer is as normal as any other persons.

Secondary Breast Cancer

Secondary Breast Cancer

What is Secondary Breast Cancer?

As discussed above secondary breast cancer is when the cancer cells break and spread to other parts of the body. Breast cancer cells may be found in the lungs, liver or the bones and very rarely in brain and other parts.

There may be cases when breast cancer cells may again appear at the same location as the primary cancer or in the lymph nodes, armpits or behind the breast bone or in the lower parts of the neck. In all these cases it is not secondary breast cancer rather it will be a case of recurrence of cancer. Secondary breast cancer and recurrence of cancer are two different things.

Please remember, that it is not being suggested that breast cancer will spread to secondary locations. There are a number of factors that have to play a role – the stage at which primary cancer was detected, the line of treatment, regularity with follow up treatment and medicines and luck. The results of secondary breast cancer are also determined by the stage at which it is diagnosed.

Treatment for Secondary Breast Cancer

The treatment of the secondary Breast cancer can be decided by the doctor alone. The treatment may include surgery or radiotherapy. A patient may also be put on medication. It all depends on the seriousness of the secondary breast cancer and how much it has spread. You must discuss with your doctor the tests that you must do from time to time in order to ensure that the secondary breast cancer does not happen.

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The hormone or protein HER2 is capable of attaching itself to cancer cells and helps them to grow. Testing the presence of the HER2 in the body can help to track and deal with the secondary breast cancer at the beginning itself. In addition to HER2 there are quite a few tests that a patient would need to take before the line of treatment can be discussed. Some of these tests are:

  • Blood test
  • Bone scan
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Biopsy
  • X rays
  • Liver ultra sound scan
  • PET/CT scan

Routine Check Up Analysis

Sometimes you may be detected of the secondary breast cancer as a routine check up too. We will now discuss some of the secondary breast cancer symptoms that may help you to detect the cancer on time:

  1. Pain in the bones if the cancer has spread to the bones.
  2. Fracture in the bone all of a sudden as the bone becomes weak
  3. The cancer if reaches the bone can lead to calcium being released into the blood and the condition is called Hypercalcaemia.
  4. Compression in the spinal cord
  5. Breathlessness is common in secondary breast cancer if it has spread to the lungs
  6. A fluid is filled in the lungs when you are suffering from secondary Breast cancer this makes the patient breathless.
  7. Pain in the liver is a good symptom that the secondary breast cancer has spread to this part of the body.
  8. Sometimes the patient develops jaundice and this leads to the diagnosis of the secondary breast cancer
  9. If you have a headache that just refuses to go away you must consult a doctor as this may be an indication of secondary breast cancer too.
  10. Some women also complain of numbness in legs and arms. A feeling of weakness is also common in secondary breast cancer that has reached the brains.

We are not saying that having any of these mentioned symptoms means that you are suffering from secondary breast cancer. These can be indicator of some other health problems too. Just that if you have a history of breast cancer these can become even more serious and you must look into them immediately. We will now move on to discuss how you can treat the secondary breast cancer:

  1. Hormonal therapies
  2. Radiotherapy
  3. Targeted therapy
  4. Surgery
  5. Chemotherapy
  6. Bone strengthening drugs
  7. Steroids being given to the patient

These are some of the treatments that can be used in treating the secondary Breast cancer. The doctor can use all of these or just select a few depending o n the requirement.

Some common side effects of secondary breast cancer are:

  1. It leads to early menopause
  2. It reduces the interest of the woman in sex
  3. It can lead to depression too

We would advise the family members of the patient to be sensitive and deal with the problem with a little more empathy. The patient may lose heart and become very upset. However, a little extra care and love can always solve the problems.

We hope that this article on secondary breast cancer will help you to deal with the cancer better and will also help you to recover faster. It may be a little disappointing when you develop the secondary Breast cancer. You may feel that the disease is just not leaving you but be positive and strong and you will survive through it.

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  • meetunayyar
  • A lawyer by profession, social worker and a fighter against cancer