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Metastatic Breast Cancer  

Metastatic breast cancer is an advanced form of cancer in which cancerous cells have broken away from the main site of the breast cancer and spread to other parts of the body.  Most cases of metastatic breast cancer are reoccurrences of an earlier cancer.  Further details on this type of breast cancer will be discussed. 

Normally when a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, further tests are performed to see if the cancer has spread or metastasized to other parts of the body.  This means that the cancer is much more severe and life threatening.  A variety of tests are performed to test for this type of cancer. 

A physical exam of affected and suspected areas of cancer is started.  This can be followed up with imaging exams such as mammography, breast MRI, breast ultrasound, and others.  Taking tissue samples of affected areas is very commonly performed as well. 

The prognosis for people affected by metastatic breast cancer is typically lower than people who have earlier stage breast cancer.  They have a lower five year survival rate.  However the course of treatment is to manage the metastatic breast cancer as a chronic condition. 

Treatments are performed with the objective of prolonging life and keeping the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.  The type of treatment will also depend on several factors including the amount and areas which the cancer has spread to; certain features of the tumor cells themselves; age and general health; previous treatments; and the current symptoms. 

Hormone therapy is an innovative type of therapy which uses hormone receptors to bring chemicals which can help to shrink tumors.  It has fewer side effects than chemotherapy and there may also be a longer lasting benefit. 

Chemotherapy is a common therapy used to treat the cancer with chemicals which seek to destroy the cancer cells.  The type and duration of this therapy will depend on many factors.  Targeted therapy is another type of chemotherapy which allows chemicals to be attracted to specific kinds of cancer cells.  It also has fewer side effects than chemotherapy and can be more effective. 

And radiation therapy is another type used to attack the tumors and reduce them as much as possible.  This type of therapy is often used to reduce the pain associated with cancer as well. 

Surgery may be used to remove cancerous tissue but this is not a common type of therapy since the cancer is no longer located in specific areas but has spread to other parts of the body. 

Side effects from treatment as well as the symptoms caused by the advanced cancer can cause a good deal of pain as well as fatigue.  It is recommended that sufferers try to maintain a positive outlook and stay as healthy as possible in order to extend life and keep the quality of life as high as possible. 

There may come a point where the continued treatments can no longer stop the progression of the disease or where the side effects associated with the treatments simply outweigh their benefits.  At this point, some patients decide to stop these treatments and let nature take its course.  They would instead focus on palliative or comfort care to give them the best quality of life in the time they have left.  This is a complex problem and one in which the support of friends, family and medical organizations can be very important.