What is Metastatic Breast Carcinoma?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A metastatic breast carcinoma is an invasive growth in the breast that spreads to another region of the body, commonly the neighboring lymph nodes or lungs. Once cancers begin to metastasize, the prognosis for the patient becomes more serious, as the spreading growth indicates that the cancer is highly invasive and thus may be harder to treat. Oncologists usually supervise care for patients with metastatic breast carcinoma, and the treatments can include surgery to remove tumors, chemotherapy, and radiation.

A radical mastectomy is a typical surgical procedure for a metastatic breast carcinoma.
A radical mastectomy is a typical surgical procedure for a metastatic breast carcinoma.

Patients are usually diagnosed with breast cancers when they or their physicians identify lumps in their breasts, and they are sent for further testing, including medical imaging studies and biopsies. Sometimes, cancer is spotted on routine mammography in older patients. In the case of metastatic breast carcinoma, it is possible for the cancer to go undetected until it spreads to another area of the body and a biopsy of the growth reveals that it originated in the breasts.

The first step in cancer care is collecting as much information as possible about the growth, including where it first developed, how quickly it is spreading, and what kinds of cells are involved. In metastatic breast carcinoma, biopsy samples from the metastases will contain breast cancer cells that can be linked with growths in the breast. A pathologist can determine the stage on the basis of how far the cancer has spread and the types of cells involved.

Surgical excision of as much of the tumor or tumors as possible, with clean margins, is usually recommended for cases of metastatic breast carcinoma. Once the growths have been removed, the patient can be referred for long-term therapies like chemotherapy and radiation to prevent the recurrence of the cancer and shrink any cells left behind in the body. Medical imaging studies will be used to see how well the cancer responds to treatment. The goal is to push the patient into remission, where the cancer is not detectable and no new signs of cancer are present.

Patients diagnosed with metastatic breast carcinoma can ask their doctors about the prognosis. If the cancer has invaded multiple organs, the situation for the patient may be quite grim. On the other hand, if it is caught early, when it has only spread to the lymph nodes, a radical mastectomy along with lymphectomy, combined with appropriate chemotherapy and radiation regimens, may be enough to battle the cancer, and the patient may enjoy years or decades of healthy living after cancer.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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