Breast cancer spreads in three different ways -- through the lymph system, which is the most common; through the blood; or through tissue, as when a tumor grows into, or invades, surrounding normal cells. If another tumor forms elsewhere in the body through metastasis, it's the same kind of cancer as the original tumor. A new tumor in the lung, for instance, is considered metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. However, these metastasized tumors tend to be more aggressive than the original breast tumor.Whether breast cancer will eventually spread depends a great deal on the aggressiveness of the type of tumor with which a woman is initially diagnosed. The earlier the stage at diagnosis, the less likely the cancer has already metastasized.
For women whose cancer is detected while still confined to the breast -- before any lymph node involvement -- the risk of eventual metastasis is only 5% to 10%. The odds of recurrence increase greatly for cancer diagnosed at more advanced stages, with estimates of metastasis ranging from 30% to 85%.
Metastatic cancer typically develops (if at all) within 3 years of the initial cancer treatment, often invading lymph nodes near the breast -- located in the armpit and chest wall -- before traveling to farther sites. But again, much depends on the grade and aggressiveness of each individual tumor, with some carrying much higher recurrence rates. About a quarter of all metastases, first appear in the bones. The lungs (at about 20%), liver and brain (the latter two accounting for about 15% each) are next most common sites for cancer spread.
"If the cancer is localized in one or two lymph nodes, there's a pretty low risk" of spread, says Debbie Saslow, Ph.D., director of breast and gynecologic cancer for the American Cancer Society. "If it's a particularly large tumor or involves lots of nodes, the risk definitely increases."
So, the type of aggressiveness of a tumor is a factor in the cancer spreading. I was labeled Stage 3B Her 2 positive, which is a quite aggressive type of cancer, however it only affected 2 lymph nodes and on my last check, they couldn’t find any sign of cancer and so I am positive about doing good and them not finding any growth.
My friend Stacy had a friend of hers die this last week. I think she was 34. She has breast cancer that spread, to her lungs. I hate hearing stories like this, but in my mind, I automatically think, “God has a plan for everyone’s death.” I read the front page article of the Houston Chronicle yesterday and it was about a 21 year old illegal immigrant from Guatemala and how he and 14 others dies in a car wreck on their way to Houston. It was a very sad story, he had gone against his father’s wishes and his mother now has to deal with the guilt of allowing him to go and lying to her husband about it for days. My point is he was only 21 and he just wanted a better life. He had made it the majority of the way to his destination and he was excited about his future. It was so sad, but this is a part of life and no one knows when it will happen.
I can be very careful on the highway and still be killed in an accident one night just as easily as cancer could metastasize and I could die that way. The numbers of 30 – 85% of reoccurrence for those with advanced cancer are so broad because no one knows for sure.
I choose not to live in a state of constant fear of the unknown. Instead, I will live by faith and do the best I can to take care of myself while trying to have a good quality of life, meaning I will not just live on things like wheat grass and beats and stress about tests and drugs and such. In fact, stress can make it worse according to the doctors and so this is probably the best for me.
Metastasis may cause symptoms in the area where the cancer has newly appeared. Bone metastases (the most common type) can produce bone pain; lung metastases can produce coughing or shortness of breath; and liver metastases can produce depressed appetite and weight loss. A brain metastasis may cause neurological symptoms, such as headaches, blurry vision or a feeling of weakness.
"A lot of women get anxious about any ache or pain they experience for even years after [initial breast cancer] treatment," Saslow says. "But most metastases would occur before there are any symptoms."
So, even if I have symptoms, say a headache it would most likely be too late because that’s the way it works. It would be super cool if like on Star Trek we had some scanner and each morning we could all scan our bodies and brains for any sign of abnormality and head for the doctor for quick treatment, but it doesn’t work that way. We do not get to see in our inside except without these big, special, high- dollar machines. With my type of fast- growing cancer, it could be really advanced by now, or not have grown at all. It can happen within weeks, and I know because I saw it grow within my breast within a 5-day period. So you see if it’s 3 months and 4 days or 4 months and 6 days it really doesn’t matter, we’ll catch it if it grows and go from there. I pray for grace and mercy and a long life and I know that God answers prayers. Please do not worry or stress for others, yourself or me. Pray and trust in God and if you are living with cancer focus on living and not dying.
BTW – Thanks for the prayers about potty training. I kid you not. For 1 month we have be dealing with Hudson pooping in his little undies and the last 3 days he has gone on the potty! Yeah, Praise the Lord! It’s truly the little things in life.Have a blessed day.