What Happens When Breast Cancer Spreads The type of breast cancer plays a role in when it becomes metastatic. 112

KEERTHI GOGINENI:

Metastatic breast cancer is when

a woman, or potentially a man,

has a cancer that started

in the breast

and then spread to an area

outside of the breast.

And so when we think about this,

we're thinking about cancer

that's gone from the breast

into the lungs, or the liver,

or the bones, or the brain.

There's going to be some group

of women for whom

the breast cancer they had

in a sense distributed seeds,

and at some point those seeds

find roots

and they grow

in a different part of the body.

Thankfully, most people who have

breast cancer are not going

to develop metastatic disease.

But there is going to be

some group of women that will

develop that, and it really

depends on the kind of breast

cancer

that someone was diagnosed with.

So women who have hormone

positive breast cancer

are women who could have

a recurrence a long time

after they were first diagnosed.

So that could be in the span

of the following 10, 15 years.

There are women who have

something called

triple negative breast cancer.

That kind of breast cancer

tends to show up fast.

So these women typically,

if they're going to have

metastatic disease,

it would develop

within the first two

to three years of a diagnosis.

And then women who have

something called HER2-positive

breast cancer are potentially

going to have metastatic disease

develop somewhere

between those two windows.

And so in terms of thinking

about treatment plans,

one of the goals

was to try to make sure

that we're addressing

the symptoms that the cancer

might be causing,

but also trying to really think

hard about the quality of life

and the length of life.

You're trying to put together

a treatment plan that's going

to address

those different aspects.

Keerthi Gogineni, MD, Winship Breast Oncologist. <br>Pond5. <br>AudioJungle. /delivery/aws/10/d0/10d013a2-9216-3c43-8a1e-720a8a794fd5/funded-expert-feature-what-happens-when-breast-cancer-spreads_,4500k,2500k,1000k,750k,400k,.mp4 07/30/2019 13:33:00 650 350 photo of doctor speaking about breast cancer /webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/funded_expert_feature_what_happens_when_breast_cancer_spreads_video/650x350_funded_expert_feature_what_happens_when_breast_cancer_spreads_video.jpg 091e9c5e81cdd7bf

If your cancer spreads beyond your breast and the nearby lymph nodes, it's considered advanced, or metastatic. The most common places it spreads to are the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones, and brain.

Even if it isn't curable, there are treatments that can help manage your cancer so you’re able to do everyday things, adjusting for how you feel.

A Different Treatment Schedule

Treatments for advanced breast cancer may go on without an end date to keep the disease under control. You'll visit the clinic on a regular basis, and you'll get to know your health care team.

If the treatment works, you'll stay on it as long as it's working well without side effects. If it doesn’t work well or has bad side effects, your doctor will try different treatments.

Your doctor is likely to suggest chemotherapy because it travels through your entire body.

You will also need hormone therapy if your cancer is sensitive to (meaning fueled by) the hormone estrogen or progesterone. Some people can take targeted treatments, which are drugs that work directly on the changes within cancer cells. These combinations can make chemotherapy work better.

Sometimes, surgery or radiation can help ease symptoms.

Regular Tests Keep Tabs on Your Cancer

Every once in a while, you'll get imaging tests to see inside your body. This is one way that doctors check on how your treatments are working and whether the disease has spread. Common imaging tests include:

CT scans, where an X-ray machine circles around as you lie on a table.

Bone scans with an IV infusion that helps show areas with cancer. Your doctor may call this scintigraphy.

PET scans with a special camera and a tracer chemical that goes into your arm by IV.

Sometimes, results are combined for a PET-CT scan. A computer merges the images to find hot spots that may be cancer.

Your doctor will tell you how often you need these tests based on the stage of your disease.

WebMD Medical Reference

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