The stage 4 breast cancer is the last stage of this dreaded disease, where the condition cannot be reversed. In the following article we will be discussing the nature, symptoms and treatment options of this life-threatening disease…
Cancer is a disease which can occur in any part of the body. The main reason why cancer develops is because of uncontrolled growth of certain cells in the body, which can be cancerous in nature. Individuals from all age groups can get affected by cancer in any part of their body. Breast cancer is one such cancer, which can affect both men and women, but is more dominant in women as compared to men. Though this cancer can be seen in women who are above 50 years of age, there are a few cases of young women who may also develop this cancer. There are four stages depending on the severity and metastasis of cancerous cells. Out of all the stages, stage 4 is the most severe kind. This is because the cancerous cells have spread or metastasized to other parts of the body. Hence, this cancer in the last stage is also known as metastatic breast cancer.
Breast Cancer: An Overview
Breast cancer, also referred to as malignant breast neoplasm in medical parlance, is categorized into lobular carcinoma and ductal carcinoma. Lobular cancer develops in the lobules of the breast, which are the milk-producing glands. There is no formation of lump, as is commonly believed. The breast tissue thickens and swelling or feeling of fullness in one side of the breast can be noticed. The skin’s texture may also undergo change and appear rough. This carcinoma is invasive in nature, which means that it has the potential to metastasize to other parts of the body
On the other hand, when the cancerous cells develop in the tubes or ducts carrying milk from the breasts to the nipples, then it is known as ductal carcinoma in situ. DCIS breast cancer is non-invasive in nature and is common. The cancer is confined to the ducts and does not spread to other areas in the body. Since there are chances that ductal carcinoma may turn invasive, prompt diagnosis and treatment is required. The frequency of women suffering from ductal carcinoma in situ is higher as compared to those affected by lobular carcinoma.
An excess of the hormone estrogen in the body can be one of the causes why some women may get affected by cancer. An abnormal level of this female hormone in the body can trigger the uncontrolled growth and development of breast tumors. If any woman has a family history of breast cancer or if she inherits a faulty gene from the parent, then she is more susceptible to this disease. Research is under progress in order to reduce the risk of cancer and prolong the life of the affected individual.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Unfortunately, the early symptoms are not so evident. These symptoms surface only when the cancer has progressed. A self exam is always advisable to check for the presence of lumps or any outgrowths in either of the breasts.
- One of the early symptoms is noticing a hard lump in the breast. The presence of this lump can be near the areola or the armpit and can be felt while bathing.
- The size and color of nipple may change. In some cases, the areola may change its appearance and resemble a lemon peel. Breast soreness or tenderness can be experienced on touching.
- Some women may also notice secretions from the breast, which may range from clear, milky white or yellowish, to bloody in color, as one of the symptoms.
- Other symptoms may include pain in the cheat region, which may radiate to the arms, generalized body weakness, nausea and unintended weight loss.
Stage 4 Breast Cancer Treatment
Before administering treatment, the doctor may conduct a few diagnostic tests like blood tests, physical exam to check for the size of the lump, and also MRI and CT scans of the affected breast. A biopsy, where a small sample of the breast tissue is removed through a syringe and tested if it is malignant or benign, is also conducted. A positive result may indicate that the person is suffering from breast cancer. Once all the diagnostic tests are carried out and the staging is done, then the doctor may administer treatment according to the stage of cancer at which it was diagnosed. The patient may undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy to destroy the harmful cells. In case the cancer has metastasized, the patient may have to undergo mastectomy, where the entire diseased breast is surgically removed.
The prognosis depends on the age of the individual, the diagnostic stage of cancer and the response to the treatment administered. The survival rate and life expectancy mainly depends on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. However, the survival rate of the end stage of cancer is lower than the other stages, which is very unfortunate. But thanks to modern medicine, the life expectancy of the patient has improved and the patient can lead a near normal life.
Though survival rate is not so optimistic for the final stage of breast cancer, life expectancy of a patient can be improved with proper treatment and care. It is also important to spread the awareness of this life-threatening disease.