Breast cancer metastasis is a condition where the cancerous cells have travelled from the breasts to other parts of the body. In the early stages of breast cancer metastasis, the cancerous cells most often travel to the axillary lymph nodes, which are located near the underarms. In later stages, the cancer can travel to any part of the body. The lungs, liver, brain and bones are most commonly affected.
Breast cancer metastasis is treatable, but it is only potentially curable in the early stages when the cancer has not spread beyond the axillary lymph nodes. Once the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, patients and doctors might want to focus on extending the patient’s life and managing the side effects of treatment. Getting regular mammograms and performing monthly self-exams can decrease your chances of developing incurable breast cancer. The longer the condition goes untreated, the greater the chance that your doctor will not be able to remove all of the cancerous cells.
Surgery can effectively remove tumors during early stages of metastatic breast cancer, but it might also leave behind some cancerous cells that are too small to identify. Instead of relying on surgery, most doctors prefer using drug or radiation therapies that can attack cancer throughout the body instead of focusing on a specific area.
There are two forms of radiation treatment. External radiation treatment for metastatic breast cancer uses machines that produce highly energized beams. These beams are pointed at the affected area, and the radiation kills the cancer cells. Internal radiation treatment uses pellets of irradiated material inserted near the cancer cells that release radiation to kill the cells.
Drug treatments, such as chemotherapy, can include pills that are taken orally or medications that are injected into the body. The medication attacks cancer cells on a wide scale by spreading throughout the body.
While radiation and drug therapies can kill cancer cells or slow the growth of these cells so that they cannot spread as quickly, they can produce unwanted side effects. When deciding what treatment to use, your doctor might consider your general state of health. If you are not healthy enough to effectively weather the side effects of treatment, then she or he might pursue other alternatives such as hospice care and options to maximize your quality of life.
One of the best ways to prevent metastatic breast cancer is to receive annual mammograms. Mammograms can detect tumors and lumps before you can detect them with self-exams. Self-exams are important, too, because you can perform them monthly, easily, and without any risks to your health, (Mammograms use radiation, and too much exposure can cause long term health problems.)
Other ways to prevent breast cancer metastasis include getting plenty of aerobic exercise and eating a balanced diet, which helps to lower body fat and improve immune functions. Several studies have linked obesity and being overweight to breast cancer. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and eating a low-fat diet will help you maintain a healthy weight, lowering your risk of getting breast cancer and improving your sense of well-being and quality of life.