End-stage breast cancer
Breast cancer, also known as breast cancer in technical terms, can be divided into different stages. The decisive factors here are tumor size, lymph node involvement and the presence of daughter tumors (so-called. Metastases).
If one speaks of end-stage breast cancer, there are daughter tumors, which means that the breast cancer is not only located in the breast, but has also manifested itself in other organs and tissues. The division of breast cancer into the various stages has an influence on the prognosis and the subsequent therapy of the disease.
Symptoms of terminal breast cancer
The symptoms of end-stage breast cancer are varied and depend on where the daughter tumors (Metastases) are available.
Depending on the size of the tumor in the breast, it is visible from the outside (e.g. through retraction when moving) or palpable as a lump. Is the so-called inflammatory breast cancer before, the breast often shows typical signs of inflammation such as reddening, overheating and painfulness.
The most common locations for daughter tumors are the lungs, bones, liver, and brain.
If the lungs are affected, coughing, shortness of breath and bloody sputum can result. If bones are affected, they can cause severe pain, and there may even be fractures due to the porous nature. Metastases in the liver can e.g. through the yellowing of the skin and a strong palpable enlargement of the liver. If the brain is affected, loss of function can manifest itself in the form of paralysis, seizures or changes in personality.
Breast cancers that have spread are often also shown by the so-called B symptoms: patients complain of fever, unwanted weight loss and night sweats. However, since in principle every organ can be affected in different ways, the symptoms are very individual.
More information on this topic: Metastasis in breast cancer
Signs of terminal breast cancer
Only rarely are patients already in the end-stage of the disease when they are first diagnosed with breast cancer; it is more common that a previously treated cancer grows again over the years.
As already described above, the signs of the final stage mostly depend on the organs that are newly infected. The picture can vary from a bloody cough to yellowing of the skin and eyes. The above-mentioned B symptoms consisting of fever, weight loss and night sweats can also be the first signs of a spread.
Read more on the topic: Recognize breast cancer
What is the end-stage treatment like?
Once the breast cancer has spread, it is no longer curable. This means that it cannot be completely defeated by surgery or chemotherapy.
In this case one speaks of a palliative therapy. The aim of this is to delay the growth of the tumor for as long as possible, to alleviate the accompanying symptoms and to give the patient the longest possible, comfortable life.
The growth of the cancer is usually contained with one or more chemotherapies. For this purpose, many patients have what is known as a port implanted through which the chemo can be administered. Unfortunately, chemotherapy is associated with many side effects such as hair loss, nausea and weakness, but it is possible to alleviate some of these symptoms.
Another important pillar of palliative therapy is to alleviate symptoms that arise. With intensified pain therapy, severe pain can also be reduced.
In the case of bone involvement, for example, radiation can also help. Palliative therapy has to be individually tailored to the patient.
Finally, psychological support for patients and their relatives is essential so that the illness can be understood and dealt with.
Find out more about the topic here:
- Chances of recovery in breast cancer
- Port implantation
End-stage pain management in breast cancer
End-stage breast cancer can cause pain in many patients. These are very different, depending on the subjective perception and also on the location of the metastasis. A common problem is bone pain that can result from spreading into the skeleton. Irradiation of the affected region usually helps here.
Pain therapy is an important factor in palliative therapy and should be carried out by specialist doctors such as Be taken over by pain medicine specialists.
Opiates, for example, can provide a remedy without reducing the quality of life.
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Life expectancy in terminal breast cancer
End-stage breast cancer these days is by no means necessarily associated with rapid death. The average life expectancy from the start of the diagnosis of daughter tumors is between 2 and 3.5 years. For a third of women it is 5 years. It should be noted that these are purely statistical values and that each person has to be viewed individually and that both longer and shorter life expectancies are realistic.
The prognosis depends on the nature of the tumor, as this determines how well the chemotherapy, hormone therapy or immunotherapy works. The location and size of the metastasis are also decisive for the further development of the disease. Lastly, the patient's age and general health are crucial. If there is also a serious illness such as heart failure, this can negatively affect the prognosis.
It should also be noted that the prognoses made by the doctor are never binding and safe, as complications and unexpected positive developments are always possible.
Find out more about this topic here:
- Life expectancy in breast cancer
- Prognosis in breast cancer.