Metastatic breast cancer occurs when the cancerous cells from the breast have spread beyond the breast tissue and lymph nodes to other body organs. In this post, we will see the diagnosis techniques used by breast cancer surgeons in London and the risk factors that cause metastasis.
Metastatic breast cancer is usually diagnosed using a combination of physical examination, laboratory tests and imaging tests, which helps determine the presence and extent of cancer spread. The process employed by the breast cancer surgeons in London may include the following steps:
This is the first step in which you will be examined for any signs and symptoms indicating metastatic breast cancer. The breast cancer specialist will check for swollen lymph nodes, neurological changes and bone pain.
Your medical history will be reviewed at this step, including previous breast cancer treatments and any new symptoms.
Imaging techniques help to identify areas of cancer spread within the body. These include
- X-rays: to detect bone metastasis.
- MRI: to obtain high-resolution images of soft tissues like the liver or brain
- CT scans: to visualise detailed cross-sectional images of tissues and internal organs
- PET scans: to detect increased metabolic activity, which is an indicator of cancerous tissues
- Bone scans: to identify potential areas of cancer spread within the bones.
These include blood tests to assess the patient’s overall health and look for specific markers that indicate the presence of cancer or renal dysfunction. Laboratory tests include:
- Liver function tests: for assessing the liver’s ability to process various substances that are affected by liver metastasis
- Complete blood count: for evaluating the red blood cell level, platelets, and white blood cells.
- Kidney function tests evaluate kidney function impacted by cancer spread or certain treatments.
- Tumour markers: blood tests for proteins and other substances can show the elevated presence of cancer.
A biopsy can also be recommended to confirm the presence of metastatic breast cancer, which involves the removal of a small sample of tissue from the suspected metastatic site. A pathologist examines This sample under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present.
Risk Factors of Metastatic Breast Cancer
- Advanced Stage at diagnosis: diagnosing with a higher stage of breast cancer have an increased risk of cancer progression to metastatic breast cancer.
- Tumour characteristics: some features of primary breast tumours, like lymph node involvement, larger tumour size, or aggressive tumour biology, can increase the likelihood of metastasis.
- Incomplete treatment: cancer cells may survive after initial treatment, thus leading to metastatic breast cancer later on.
- Genetic factors: genetic factors like inherited gene mutations can increase the risk of developing metastatic breast cancer.
- Age: Young women are at slightly higher risk for developing metastatic breast cancer than older women.
- Hormone receptor status: hormone receptor-negative breast cancer may have a higher risk of metastasis as they tend to be more aggressive.
- HER2: Breast cancers that overexpress the HER2 protein have a higher risk of metastasis than HER2-negative cancers.
If you notice any of the signs and symptoms above, you should consult a breast specialist immediately so that early treatment can save your life.
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