Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body, most typically the liver, brain, bones, or lungs. Cancer cells can break away from the initial tumour in the breast and travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system, says Dr Sanjoy Mandal, the best cancer surgeon in Kolkata.
Breast cancer can return to another part of the body months or years after the original diagnosis and treatment. Nearly 30% of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will grow metastatic disease. Some individuals have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed with breast cancer. This means that cancer in the breast wasn’t detected before it spread to another part of the body.
When breast cancer progresses into the liver, it often doesn’t cause symptoms. It can first be picked up by liver function tests, which are blood tests that count specific levels of enzymes and proteins in the blood. Abnormal levels can mean liver disease or damage. If liver metastasis causes symptoms, they can include:
- Weight loss/poor appetite
- Pain or discomfort in the mid-section
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling in the legs
- A yellow tint to the skin or the whites of the eyes
In addition to liver function examinations, doctors use imaging tests to diagnose liver metastases. These include MRI, CT scan, ultrasound and PET scan. Sometimes, a combined PET/CT scan is used. The doctor also can recommend getting a sample of the suspicious area(s) for examination under a microscope (biopsy). They can involve an interventional radiologist to get precise and minimally invasive imaging, says the onco surgeon in Kolkata.
The doctor can insert a tiny needle through the skin and the liver to extract the tissue samples using the imaging as a guide. The doctor can also suggest a laparoscopy procedure, using specialized surgical instruments to operate through small incisions in the abdomen to extract some of the tissue. The samples can then be examined to establish the diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer.
The most typical treatments for metastatic breast cancer in any location (lung, bone, brain, or liver) are systemic medications, which treat cancer throughout the entire body. Systemic medications contain chemotherapy, targeted therapies, hormonal therapy and bone-strengthening medication.
Local treatments, which are therapies explicitly directed to the new locations of the breast cancer — aren’t usually the first choice for metastases. Still, local therapies are recommended under certain circumstances. Local treatments include surgery and radiation therapy. For more details and treatment consult Dr Sanjoy Mandal, the best cancer surgeon in Kolkata.