Different Types of Mastectomy

Types of Mastectomy

A mastectomy is a surgical procedure commonly used as a treatment or prevention for breast cancer. There are different types of mastectomy, and depending which is done, a part or all of the breast is removed. About 55% of all women in the United States who has been diagnosed with breast cancer has undergone a mastectomy. Depending on the severity of the cancer and other health conditions, a mastectomy can really help with fighting breast cancer and letting the patient go into remission. It also helps to prevent the cancer from spreading to other areas in the body.

There are actually a few different types of mastectomy, each designed to treat different breast cancer stages. Below are three of the most common mastectomy: partial, total, and preventative mastectomy.

Partial Mastectomy

Like the name suggests, a partial mastectomy is a procedure that removes only a part of the breast. Often times, a partial mastectomy will leave the nipple and the skin around the breast untouched. This is a common course of treatment for people who are in very early stages of breast cancer.

Partial Mastectomy can be further split into two different procedures: a lumpectomy and a quadrantectomy. In a lumpectomy, surgeons will only remove the cancerous tumor and a little of the healthy tissue around the tumor. In a quadrantectomy, the tumor is removed as well, but a lot more healthy tissue around the tumor is removed too.

Most patients who undergo a partial mastectomy will also need radiation therapy in order to further prevent the cancer cells from spreading and to destroy any potential cancer cells that survived the mastectomy. Sometimes, another surgery may be needed if the radiation therapy is ineffective in treating the cancer.

Total Mastectomy

Also known as a simple mastectomy, a total mastectomy involves the removal of all breast tissues, including healthy tissues. Doctors may also remove the lymph nodes near the breast during this procedure. Additionally, the chest muscles around the lymph nodes may be removed as well. Unlike the partial mastectomy, the nipple cannot be saved during a total mastectomy.

A total mastectomy is now becoming rarer. However, the procedure is still done if the cancer cells have begun to get into lymph nodes and the surrounding muscles. This helps to prevent the cancer cells from spreading further throughout the body.

Preventative Mastectomy

This procedure is typically done on patients that have a higher risk of developing breast cancer when compared to others. Although a preventative mastectomy can sound like a very extreme measure taken to lower the risk of developing breast cancer, it is actually extremely effective. In fact, preventative mastectomy can lower breast cancer risk by as much as 90% in most people.

However, it should still be noted that preventative mastectomy does not 100% guarantee that the patient will never develop breast cancer.Preventative is similar to total mastectomy — all breast tissues are removed (including healthy ones) and the nipple typically cannot be saved.

Below are some factors that may make doctors recommend a preventative mastectomy for the patient:

  • Cancer in One Breast

Doctors may suggest a preventative mastectomy for those who have already got cancer in one breast. Instead of only removing the breast that has cancer, the healthy breast is also removed to prevent the cancer from spreading further.

  • Family History

A preventative mastectomy may be done on those who have a long history of family members developing breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. While this may not totally prevent breast cancer in the patient, the mastectomy is still a pretty good prevention strategy. This is particularly true if the patient has family members that developed breast and/or ovarian cancer before 50 years old.

  • Gene Abnormalities

Some people may have mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These mutations dramatically increase the chances of developing breast cancer. As such, doctors highly recommend people who carry these mutations in their genes to undergo a preventative mastectomy. Biological females who are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are more likely to carry these mutations when compared to other ethnicities.

  • Dense Breast Tissue

Not only are those who have denser breast tissue more likely to develop breast cancer, it is harder to diagnose breast cancer in people who have denser breast tissue. As such, doctors may recommend preventative mastectomy these people.

  • Radiation Exposure

Those who have been exposed to radiation for a prolonged period between 10 to 30 years old have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. As such, doctors could suggest preventative mastectomy for these people. Radiation exposure may be due to environmental factors, nuclear disasters, and/or radiation therapy, which is a treatment for all different types of cancer, including breast cancer.

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Using Hormone Therapy to Treat Breast Cancer

Hormone Therapy to Treat Breast Cancer

Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone help the body regulate cycles such as menstruation. In some cases, however, these hormones can also help cancer cells multiply even faster than usual. If a person has breast cancer and is seeking treatment, a pathologist can conduct a test to determine whether or not the hormones are helping with the production of the breast cancer cells. The doctor may recommend hormone therapy as a treatment if the cancer cells are using the body’s hormones to produce at a faster rate. Two types of hormone therapy drugs, blockers and/or inhibitors, can be used to treat breast cancer. So let’s look at using hormone therapy to treat breast cancer.

Hormone Therapy Drugs

The most common drug for hormone therapy is called Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is essentially a hormone blocker, which blocks the openings for estrogens in cells. As a result, Tamoxifen works by stopping cancer cells that use estrogen to stop growing. The drug can be taken by mouth in the form of a pill. Tamoxifen is typically taken daily for up to five years after breast cancer surgery.

If a hormone blocker like Tamoxifen is not for the patient, doctors may suggest using hormone inhibitor drugs. Unlike hormone blockers, which stops the cancer cells from receiving any type of hormones that could allow it to grow, hormone inhibitors slow down the production of hormones in the body. As a result, breast cancer cells would no longer be able to access hormones like estrogen and they will begin to starve and eventually die.

Hormone therapy drugs are usually given along with other treatments like chemotherapy or surgery. The combination of hormone therapy and chemotherapy are known to be largely more effective than just undergoing one of either treatment. As such, doctors typically recommend both chemotherapy and hormone therapy as treatment if the breast cancer tests positive for using hormones to grow.

The types of hormone therapy drugs one can take may differ depending on whether or not the patient with breast cancer has gone through menopause or not.

Hormone Therapy Options Before Menopause

Drug options for those who have not gone through menopause can include:

  • Tamoxifen

This drug can be used to kill cancer cells and also help prevent breast cancer from recurring. Tamoxifen typically comes in the form of a pill and needs to be taken daily for at least 5 years. Some common side effects of the drug include hot flashes and vaginal discharge. Other side effects include an irregular menstrual cycle, thinner bones, headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, itchy or dry vagina, irritated skin surrounding the vagina, and skin rash. Serious side effects include blood clots, strokes (can be caused by the blood clots), uterine cancer, and cataracts. It should be noted that serious side effects are quite rare. However, it is important to continue to take the medicine as instructed in order to prevent any complications.

  • LH-RH Agonist

This drug works by preventing the ovaries from producing estrogen. When this is administered to the body, the estrogen levels of the body falls. Some common medications that include this drug are leuprolide and goserelin. These medications are typically given by injecting the drug via a needle near the stomach area. Side effects of this drug can include hot flashes, headaches, weight gain, thinner bones, and pain in the bones.

  • Surgery to Remove Ovaries

If the patient has not gone through menopause, then the ovaries will continue to produce estrogen. If hormone therapy drugs are not working to prevent breast cancer cells from growing as effectively, some doctors may suggest removing the ovaries completely. Once the ovaries are removed, this large source of estrogen is removed and can help in making hormone therapy much more effective in treating breast cancer. The side effects of this surgery are the same as when someone undergoes menopause naturally, but a little bit more severe.

It should be noted that if someone with breast cancer gets LH-RH agonist as their hormone therapy, or have gotten their ovaries removed, they will probably be prescribed aromatase inhibitor to continue their treatment instead of Tamoxifen.

Hormone Therapy Options After Menopause

Drug options for those who have gone through menopause can include:

  • Aromatase Inhibitor

This drug stops the body from producing a type of estrogen called estradiol. Some common medications that include this drug are anastrozole, exemestane, and letrozole. This medication comes in the form of a pill and is meant to be taken orally. Common side effects of this drug include hot flashes, nausea, vomiting, and/or joint or bone pain. Several side effects include thinner bones and cholesterol increase.

  • Tamoxifen

This drug, as mentioned before, can be used to kill cancer cells and also help prevent breast cancer from recurring. It works by preventing estrogen to enter the breast cancer cells. Those who’s gone through menopause typically take the drug daily for 2 to 5 years.

Researchers and health professionals are still conducting research on the benefits of taking a hormone therapy drug for more than 5 years. Some researchers have suggested that people could benefit from further prevention of cancer recurring by switching hormone drugs every 5 years. Overall, hormone therapy has reduced the risk of cancer recurring by 50%.

If a patient needs hormonal therapy for breast cancer, it is suggested that the patient speaks with their oncologist. The oncologist will be able to help determine the best type of hormone therapy to undergo. This is based on how severe the breast cancer is and how old you are. Keep in mind that in order to get the best results, one should always take drugs as instructed.

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Breast Cancer Risk Factors and Prevention

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast cancer occurs when there is abnormal cell growth in the breast. It typically begins in the linings of the breast milk duct. There are currently no known exact cause or cure for breast cancer. However, there are still a number of risk factors that could increase someone’s chances of developing breast cancer. Here are some of the breast cancer risk factors.

  • Age

Older women are more at risk of getting breast cancer when compared to those who are younger.

  • Gender

Women are almost 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men. Keep in mind, however, that this does not mean that men cannot get breast cancer.

  • Race

Based on statistics of several diagnoses, African-Americans have a higher chance of passing from breast cancer, whereas white women have a higher chance of getting diagnosed with breast cancer in general.

  • Family History

Family members or distant relatives who have breast cancer could increase the chance of someone related to develop breast cancer. Some people also carry certain types of genes that may significantly increase their risk of developing breast cancer.

  • Environmental Factors

These are things like smoking and prolonged exposures to chemicals, pesticides, and/or radiation. These factors can all increase a person’s chances of developing breast cancer.

  • Menstrual Cycle

Some researchers have suggested that there may be some connections between the menstrual cycle and someone’s chances of developing breast cancer. Those who began their periods before 12 years old and/or those who experience menopause after 55 years old may have a higher chance of getting breast cancer.

  • Breast Tissue

Those who have denser breast tissue have a higher chance of developing breast cancer. Having a denser breast tissue means that one has more gland tissue in the breast than fatty tissue. A denser breast tissue could be troubling if someone does get breast cancer, as it may make it more difficult for symptoms to show up on mammograms.

It should be noted that just because a person experiences a risk factor or multiple risk factors does not mean that they will develop breast cancer. In fact, quite a number of women who has breast cancer do not experience any of the risk factors listed above.

How to Prevent Breast Cancer

While there is no sure fire way to prevent breast cancer, avoiding some risk factors like smoking can help lower the chances of developing the disease. One can also practice being cautious and safe in environments where one has to experience prolonged exposure to chemicals, pesticides, or radiation.

However, some factors like family history, gender, race, and age cannot be changed or avoided. If you have some of these risk factors that cannot be changed, the best way to prevent breast cancer is asking your doctor if you could have an annual mammogram and physical exam. This way, if you do develop the cancer, it can be caught early.

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Breast Cancer Overview: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal cells — typically known as cancer cells — within the breast. Most breast cancers begin in the lining of the breast milk duct. The breast milk ducts are small tubes that carry the milk made from milk glands in the breast to the nipple, the connective tissue of the breast, blood vessels, and lymph vessels. As such, cancer cells can easily spread throughout the breast via the breast milk duct. When the cancer gets to the lymph vessels, this can be very dangerous. This is because the lymph system is spread throughout the body. As a result, breast cancer can easily spread to other areas or organs of the body once it reaches the lymph vessels in the breast.

Cancer cells in the lymph vessels can turn into lymph nodes. The more cancer cells that are evident in lymph nodes, the higher the chances are that the cancer has gotten to other parts of the body. When the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is known as metastasizing. Cancer can metastasize no matter what type it is. When this occurs, the cancer cell typically multiplies and grow into tumors in places like the liver, brain, bones, and/or lungs. If left untreated, cancer that has metastasized can cause serious health complications and cut down survival rate significantly. Chances of cancer recurring are also higher if cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.

Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in women in the United States, the first being skin cancer. While breast cancer occurs largely in women, men can also develop breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Causes

The exact cause of breast cancer is currently unknown. However, there are some factors that could increase a person’s chance of getting breast cancer. These risk factors include aging, some hormone therapy used after menopause, being overweight, not doing enough physical activity, and certain changes to genes.

It should be noted, however, that many women who have breast cancer do not experience these risk factors besides aging.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

One of the more common symptoms of breast cancer is a lump or thickening that can be felt either in the breast or underarms. In other cases, the skin could dimple on the breasts or the breasts could completely change in shape or size. Another symptom is an inward nipple along with scaly skin around the nipple. The nipple could also ooze abnormal discharge.

Symptoms may be hard to spot when the illness is in its earlier stages. To ensure that someone catches their breast cancer as soon as possible, doctors recommend people to check their breasts periodically and to attend annual exams. Depending on how old a person is and other risk factors, the doctor may also suggest annual mammograms to be taken. Mammograms are good for catching breast cancer early because it can show lumps or other changes in the breasts that may be too small to be felt or seen. If a lump is found, the doctor may do a biopsy for a more accurate diagnosis. A biopsy is when a sample of cells on the body is taken and tested.

Breast Cancer Treatments

Treatment for breast cancer is typically dependent on how severe the illness is and to what extent the cancer cells have spread within the body. Personal preference, as well as professional advice, may also play a large part in choosing what type of treatment one undergoes. Typical treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

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Breast Cancer Stages

Breast Cancer Stages

Once someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, healthcare professionals will then usually work to determine which stage the illness is at. This can help doctors better understand how extensively the cancer has progressed, which in turn allows them to establish the best possible treatment options for the patient. For breast cancer, staging is determined by the size of the tumor in the breast, how many lymph nodes have been affected (if any), and whether or not the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, or metastasized. If the cancer has spread, it is typically spread into the bones, liver, lungs, or brain. So what are the breast cancer stages?

Below are the 5 different stages of breast cancer.

Stage 0

This stage is the earliest in which breast cancer can develop and be detected. In this stage, the cancer cells are in a very localized area within the breast. The abnormal cancer cells have not gotten past the ducts of the breast and into the surrounding tissues in this stage — instead, the cancer cells are found only in the lining of the breast milk duct. Typically, no tumors have formed yet in Stage 0 breast cancer.

Stage 0 breast cancer can also be referred to as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

Stage 1

Similar to Stage 0, in Stage 1 breast cancer, the cancer cells are only in a localized area within the breast. However, in this stage, the cancer is more evident as more cells begin to build up and cluster. Breast cancer caught at this stage is quite responsive to treatment, as with all cancers that are caught and treated in its earlier stages.

Stage 1 breast cancer can be further classified and split into two parts: Stage 1A or Stage 1B.

In Stage 1A, a small tumor has formed. This tumor is typically smaller than the size of a peanut. Neither the tumor or any cancer cells have gotten into the lymph nodes of the breast.

In Stage 1B, small clusters of cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 2

In Stage 2, the cancer is growing but is still within the breast or the cancer has only spread to the nearby lymph nodes. Similar to Stage 1, Stage 2 breast cancer can be further classified and split into two parts: Stage 2A or Stage 2B.

In Stage 2A, there are cancer cells evident in less than four axillary lymph nodes. Along with this, a very small tumor caused by cancer cells may also be present.

In Stage 2B, a cancerous tumor about 2 to 5 centimeters big is present and cancer cells can be found in less than four axillary lymph nodes. Breast cancer can also be classified as Stage 2B if a bigger tumor is present but the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 3

In Stage 3, the cancer is no longer in a localized and immediate area but hasn’t spread into other areas of the body. The cancer may have gotten to the nearby lymph nodes and/or muscles of the breasts. Like Stage 1 and Stage 2, Stage 3 breast cancer can be further classified. However, Stage 3 is split into three parts: Stage 3A, Stage 3B, and Stage 3C.

In Stage 3A, cancer cells can be found in more than 4 nearby lymph nodes. Along with this, a tumor of any size may or may not be present.

In Stage 3B, the cancer has gotten into the chest wall or breast skin. Swelling, inflammation, or ulcers can be found in this stage. Along with this, a tumor of any size may or may not be present.

Stage 3C has the same conditions as Stage 3B, with the addition of cancer cells being found in 10 or more lymph nodes near or under the arm.

Stage 4

In Stage 4, the cancer has gotten to other parts of the body besides the breast. In this stage, the cancer has metastasized. Cancer cells can usually be found in the brain, bones, lung, and/or liver in this stage. While there is currently no cure for Stage 4 breast cancer, a number of treatments can be done for someone with Stage 4 breast cancer to allow them to live for a longer time.

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Treatment Options for Breast Cancer

Treatment Options for Breast Cancer

Although there is currently no cure for breast cancer, there are a number of treatment options for breast cancer. Treatment is typically dependent on how severe the illness is and the extent in which the cancer has spread. Other factors such as someone’s age, menstrual status, personal decisions, and other health conditions can also affect the treatment someone receives.

No matter what treatment someone chooses to receive, breast cancer treatment can largely be split into two kinds: local or systemic.

Local Breast Cancer Treatments

Local breast cancer treatments are characterized by the removal or damage to the cancer only within the breasts and other related places, like lymph nodes. There are two common options when it comes to local breast cancer treatments: surgery or radiation therapy.

For surgery, one can either have a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Mastectomy includes the removal of the entire breast that has been affected by the cancer cells. Lumpectomy, on the other hand, only removes certain places or depths of tissue in the breast. Lumpectomy is often referred to as breast-conserving therapy. There are many different types of mastectomy and lumpectomy depending on how much tissue is removed.

Radiation therapy is typically used as a secondary treatment along with surgery. It is usually used to destroy or remove the cancer cells that are still in the breast even following surgery. Those who have breast cancer can either have external radiation therapy or internal radiation therapy. External radiation therapy is more commonly used as treatment and has a process similar to taking an x-ray. Internal radiation therapy is rarely used and is done through surgeons taking catheters of radioactive fluid and injecting them into the cancer cells.

Systemic Breast Cancer Treatments

While local breast cancer treatments remove or damage the cancer cells in the breasts only, systemic breast cancer treatments target cancer cells anywhere within the body. Systemic breast cancer treatment can be done along with local treatments. Whether or not a patient needs a combination of systemic and local treatments is, as mentioned, dependent on the severity of the case.

The most common systemic breast cancer treatment — as well as a lot of other types of cancer treatments — is chemotherapy. However, chemotherapy has a number of side effects that can make the treatment process extremely difficult. These side effects include nausea, hair loss, early menopause, tiredness, hot flashes, and a temporarily low blood count.

Another type of systemic breast cancer treatment is hormone therapy. Hormone therapy works by damaging hormones — particularly estrogen — in order to slow down the growth of the breast cancer cells. This type of therapy can also be used to get rid of remaining cancer cells after a surgery has been performed. Side effects of this treatment include hot flashes and dryness in the vagina.

A less common systemic treatment compared to chemotherapy and hormone therapy is biological therapy. This type of treatment works by restructuring the immune system to help damage the cancer cells.

Breast Reconstruction

Though not really a treatment, it is something that may follow someone’s breast cancer treatment. Some patients who undergo a total mastectomy may request to also receive breast reconstructive surgery. The reconstructive surgery can be done either at the same time as the mastectomy or after the mastectomy.

If a saline implant is used, the surgeon will put a tissue expander underneath the pectoral muscle. Saline is then injected into this expander throughout a period of time — usually weeks or sometimes even months — until the desired breast size is reached. Then the surgeon will switch out the saline-filled expander with a more permanent implant.

It should be noted that, if cancer reoccurs after a breast reconstruction, radiation therapy is typically the route of treatment. However, if the reconstruction is done with a breast prosthesis, the radiation therapy may affect the shape or look of the reconstructed breast.

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Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs when there is an uncontrollable production of abnormal cells — typically known as cancer cells — in the breast tissue. Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed kind of cancer in women in the United States. The first is skin cancer. Although breast cancer is typically diagnosed in women, men can also get breast cancer. So what are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Like most cancers, the rapid growth of these cells can result in a buildup and turn into tumors. When the cancer cell spread and develop into tumors in other parts of the body besides where it first began growing, this is known as metastasizing. Metastasizing cancer can be life-threatening and lead to other serious health complications if left untreated.

Cancer that is caught before it reaches the metastasizing stage is typically more responsive to treatment. As such, it is important to know which symptoms to watch out for so that one may catch the cancer at an earlier stage. However, when it comes to breast cancer, the illness is typically not diagnosed in the early stages unless annual preventative screenings are done. Still, some symptoms to watch out for are listed below:

  • Breast or armpit thickening
  • Changes in the breasts’ size or shape
  • Changes in the breasts’ skin, like a dimple or scaling
  • Changes in the nipples, like the nipple turning inwards
  • Discharge from the nipple that is green or bloody
  • Changes in the skin around the nipple, like color or the feeling of the skin

To ensure that breast cancer is caught early is to receive a mammogram annually and conduct self-examinations. This is especially true for people who are 40 years old or older.

Typically, the first physical symptom of breast cancer that is commonly known to people is a hard lump or nodule that is painless to the touch in the breast. When this is discovered, one should see their doctor as soon as possible. Removing the tumor can help increase the chances of the person going into remission.

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5 Different Types of Breast Cancer

Types of Breast Cancer

There are several different types of breast cancer — they are typically differentiated by where the cancer cells began growing. Breast cancer can occur when cancer cells begin to grow in the ducts, the lobules, or the tissues between the ducts and lobules.

Below are some different types of breast cancer.

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) occurs when abnormal cancer cells begin to grow in the lining of the milk duct in the breast. It is a non-invasive kind of cancer — the term “situ” refers to “in its original place”. As such, the cancer cells have yet to get past the ducts that are around the breast tissue in this type of cancer.

DCIS is a very early stage of breast cancer and can be effectively treated. However, if left untreated or if it is undetected, the cancer cells can spread past the duct and to the breast tissue. Although it is highly treatable, someone who has DCIS has a higher chance of the disease recurring or developing into another type of breast cancer when compared to someone who doesn’t have breast cancer.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Also known as infiltrating ductal carcinoma, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) occurs when the abnormal cells begin to grow in the lining of the milk ducts and have spread to other parts of the breast tissue. So, unlike DCIS, the cancer cells have gotten past the duct. IDC is the most common form of breast cancer — about 70% to 80% of all people diagnosed with breast cancer have IDC.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer

This type of breast cancer is characterized by the lack of estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene in the abnormal cancer cells. These receptors are common in the cells of other types of breast cancers.

Because estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu are absent in triple negative breast cancer, typical treatments such as hormone therapy or other drugs that target these three receptors specifically cannot be used as treatments. People with this type of cancer may be treated mainly with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy as a treatment in the early stages of this cancer may be more responsive when compared to treating other types of breast cancer in its early stages with chemotherapy.

People who are younger in age, African American, and/or Hispanic are at a higher risk of developing triple negative breast cancer when compared to others.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

This type of breast cancer occurs when the abnormal cancer cells begin to grow and attack the breasts’ skin and lymph vessels. It is a dangerous form of cancer because it is aggressive and can grow rather quickly. In addition, inflammatory breast cancer usually does not show in the form of a tumor or lump that can be felt — a pretty common way for checking whether or not someone has breast cancer. However, as the cancer becomes worse and the lymph vessels of the breast become blocked, other symptoms may occur. If someone starts experiencing these symptoms, it is recommended that they see a doctor right away.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a pretty rare form of breast cancer.

Metastatic Breast Cancer

Often referred to as stage four breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer is characterized by the fact that the abnormal cancer cells that began in the breast have developed into other areas in the body besides the breast. Common places where the cancer may affect includes lungs, liver, bones, and/or brain.

Metastatic breast cancer can be treated, even when it recurs. Many people who’ve had this type of breast cancer have gone into remission and are able to live life the way they want to. There are a number of different types of treatment to fit the patient’s needs.

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