Breast

In a bid to educate people about breast cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated from October 1 to 31 every year. A highly prevalent kind of cancer, it accounts for 25-30% of all cancers among women in India. Breast cancer is basically characterized by the uncontrollable growth of breast cells, resulting in the formation of lumps. Although treatable, it should be detected early. Otherwise, it spreads to other parts of the body and can be life-threatening. When breast cancer reaches this stage, known as stage 4, it is called metastatic breast cancer. To know more about it, Onlymyhealth spoke to

Dr Meenu Walia, Oncologist and Senior Director at Max Healthcare, Delhi

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Breast cancer is declared metastatic when it reaches an advanced stage, that is stage 4, and spreads beyond the breasts. Although it can spread to any body part, the most common sites are:

  • Liver
  • Bones
  • Brain
  • Lungs

Symptoms Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated from October 1 to 31 every year

(Photo Credit: Freepik)

When cancer reaches a metastatic stage, the previous cancer symptoms worsen. New symptoms also develop depending on the part of the body it has spread to. If cancer spreads to:

  • Liver, then the patient might experience a decrease in appetite.
  • Bones, it can cause backache.
  • Lungs, there might be breathlessness, cough and sometimes blood in sputum.
  • Brain, it can lead to forgetfulness, memory loss, seizures and convulsions.

And if the cancer is there in the breast itself, it leads to the formation of lumps.

How Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

When it is first diagnosed, the doctors carry out investigations to rule out if cancer has spread outside the breasts. In case it hasn’t spread, then the treatment is started and the patient is told to follow up. Also, frequent screenings and tests are done during the follow-ups to find if the cancer is spreading, so that appropriate treatment is initiated.

Who Are More Susceptible To Getting Their Cancer Reach Stage 4?

  • It all depends on the stage of cancer when it is first diagnosed. If it is detected at an earlier stage, then the chances of it reaching stage 4 are less. Conversely, if it is picked up at stage 3, there is a greater chance of it reaching the metastatic stage.
  • Tumour biology also plays a role as certain subtypes of breast cancer are more aggressive than the others and are at a greater chance of reaching stage 4. One such aggressive subtype of breast cancer is triple-negative breast cancer.

Also read: Why Are Breast Cancer Demographics Changing In India? Know The Challenges From Expert

What Is The Treatment For Metastatic Breast Cancer?

The treatment at every stage of breast cancer is different. It also depends on the cancer subtype. Some treatments include:

  • Hormonal treatment
  • Targeted therapy
  • Chemotherapy

However, at stage 4, doctors avoid chemotherapy and surgery. This is because at this stage, cancer has already spread, thus there is no point in doing localised therapy. However, surgery is still done in case the tumour is bleeding, or fungating, or there is some other issue.

How To Prevent Breast Cancer From Reaching The Metastatic Stage?

Here is what Dr Walia recommends:

  • There should be regular screenings, tests and mammography so that cancer is diagnosed early.
  • The patient should stick to the treatment. This is because often once the condition starts improving, the patient can get negligent.
  • Be regular regarding the treatment.
  • Be regular regarding the follow-ups.

Also read: Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021: Dispelling Myths About Breast Cancer

Lifestyle Tips To Prevent Developing Breast Cancer In The First Place

  • Having a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent breast cancer. 
  • Be physically active
  • Have a balanced diet, which includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Cut down on salt and sugar
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Quit smoking
  • Try to manage stress
  • Get married and have a family at the right age. Breastfeeding can be preventative against breast cancer.

Other than these, if you have a lump in your breast, even painless, get yourself checked. This is because generally, a large number of breast cancer lumps are painless, says Dr Walia.

(With inputs from Dr Meenu Walia, Oncologist and Senior Director at Max Healthcare, Delhi)

Source : https://www.onlymyhealth.com/breast-cancer-awareness-month-what-is-metastatic-breast-cancer-1635262993

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