Stage IV breast cancer or the final stage of breast cancer represents a stage where the breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body as well. The cancer has possibly spread to the lymph nodes, skin, bones, liver and even the brain.
This stage is also called as advanced breast cancer of metastatic breast cancer. It is only when the other organs are affected that the cancer reveals its lethality and rate of progression.
Symptoms of End-Stage Breast Cancer
More often than not metastatic breast cancer spreads to the lungs of the woman. If the woman has not exhibited any symptoms at this stage, they are possibly revealed only through a CT scan or a chest X-ray. The woman may start to experience intense coughing and difficulties in breathing and shortness of breath.
The cancer often spreads to the bones and eats into the bones. The bones that are the most commonly affected are the bones of the arms, legs, hips, spine, ribs, pelvic and skull .The cancer forms holes and eats away at the bones. Osteoblastic metastasis causes the bones to increase their bone mineral density and also causes the bones to break easily. The typical symptoms of bone cancer are fatigue, tenderness, swelling in the affected area and unexplained weight loss. 25% of all breast cancers are said to spread to the bones.
The liver is one of the first major organs to get affected. Although the symptoms are rarely discernible, they become more prominent as the cancer progresses. The woman may start to experience jaundice like symptoms, which include fever, weight loss and loss of appetite.
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The brain is also one of the closest organs to the breasts and chest and is likely to get affected. Symptoms can be seen in the form of blurring, vision disturbances, dizziness and headaches.
The Treatment Options
Since this stage is an advanced stage of the cancer, the prognosis is often very poor and radiation and chemotherapy are at best only marginally effective. More often than not, the survival rate of the person can be increased up to a limit with the help of drugs and chemotherapy.
A combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, clinical trials and surgery can be administered in order to slow down the progress of the disease. Complete recovery is very rare. At best, the patient can live for a few years with advanced treatments and chemotherapy. The best remedy in such a case is preventive steps and early diagnosis, which can nip the cancer in the bud.
The treatment and management of breast cancer is largely dependent on early diagnosis and timely medical intervention. That is why it is important to do regular self-examinations of the breast and rule out anything amiss by seeing a doctor.
Breast cancer can be completely and totally cured if it is detected within the first stage. Patients have shown signs of remission for years and years after the treatment. This also depends on the technological advancement and quality care that the patient receives.