What Are the Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer?

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

I recently came across an article titled, “How Do I Know If My Advanced Breast Cancer Therapy Is Working?” that explains the various methods used in order to determine whether a selected treatment course is working for an advanced breast cancer patient. However, the first main paragraph in that article is what caught my immediate attention. Its heading is “What Are the Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer?” with my immediate response being why have I never, ever seen any such information like this before?

It is my fondest hope that you will always elect to advocate for yourselves no matter what the issue may be just because you appreciate your own self-worth and because you deserve to live the best life possible.Barbara Jacoby

Now, if you are like me, and just about any other breast cancer patient, we have always been concerned about how we would know if at any time that our cancer has returned or may have become advanced until we have had our regular testing as scheduled by our oncologists. I know that I was never given any information about symptoms or changes that might alert me to the possibility that my cancer was back and may have metastasized other than waiting for my yearly test results. Therefore, I wanted to share the information that I found, that although it has been compiled specifically in conjunction with current treatment for someone with advanced breast cancer, might also provide some guidelines to consider between our regular oncology appointments:

How Do I Know If My Advanced Breast Cancer Therapy Is Working?

Knowing if your current therapy treatment is truly doing everything it can to beat your breast cancer is, well, difficult to say the least. Here are some things to think about or consider.

What are the symptoms of metastatic cancer?

It’s not always easy to tell if cancer is progressing, despite treatment. That’s because it doesn’t always cause new symptoms right away.
Some very general symptoms of breast cancer metastasis are:

  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • weight loss

What complicates matters is that some of those same symptoms could be bad side effects of treatments such as:

  • chemotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • targeted treatments
  • radiation

Breast cancer can spread anywhere in the body. The most common sites are bones, brain, liver, and lungs. The symptoms you have will depend on where the cancer has spread and how large the tumors are.

If you have trouble urinating, for example, it could mean that a tumor is pinching the nerves in your back. Here are some other symptoms of new metastasis by site:

  • Bone: You might have progressive sharp or dull pain in your bones and joints. There could also be some swelling. Bone fractures and compression of the spine are also signs of bone metastasis.

When bones are damaged by cancer, they can release calcium into your blood. This is known as hypercalcemia. Some symptoms of hypercalcemia are nausea, constipation, thirst, irritability, sleepiness, and confusion.

  • Brain: Symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, vision problems, loss of balance, nausea, or vomiting. There could also be changes in personality or behavior, confusion, or even seizures.
  • Liver: Abdominal pain, especially on your right side, could mean that cancer has reached your liver. Other indicators are abdominal bloating, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, itchy skin, rash, and jaundice, which causes yellowing of your skin or eyes.
  • Lungs: Shortness of breath, chronic cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, or chronic chest infections could be due to tumors in your lungs.

Report these and other new symptoms to your doctor right away.

Knowledge is power. If you experience any of changes in your health that are unusual for you, as the closing sentence of the quoted section of the article states, report the new symptoms to your doctor right away. If it is something of importance, your doctor can address it immediately and if it is nothing of concern, you will have a peace of mind that no money can buy. It is my fondest hope that you will always elect to advocate for yourselves no matter what the issue may be just because you appreciate your own self-worth and because you deserve to live the best life possible.

Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.