Metastatic breast cancer: symptoms and care at the end of life (2023)

Metastatic breast cancer occurs when cancer spreads from the breast to another part of the body. Symptoms and treatment for this stage of breast cancer are different from earlier stages.

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Physicians may also refer to metastasesbreast cancersuch as advanced breast cancer or stage 4 breast cancer.

Many people live months or years after a doctor diagnoses metastatic breast cancer. Treatment can help a person live longer and slow the progression of the disease.Krebs.

As a person with metastatic breast cancer nears the end of their life, their treatment focus may change to palliative care.

The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life. Palliative care helps a person manage end-of-life symptoms and focuses on the physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort and well-being of the person and their loved ones.

In this article, we discuss end-of-life symptoms and care for people with metastatic breast cancer. We also looked at the 5-year survival rates for this stage of breast cancer.

Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer

(Video) Understanding metastatic breast cancer

The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer differ from those of early breast cancer. This is because the cancer has spread to other organs and is affecting other body systems in addition to the affected breast.

Most commonly, metastatic breast cancer affects the bones, lungs, brain, or liver.

The presence of one or more of the following symptoms does not mean that a person has metastatic breast cancer. However, anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor for a checkup.

Symptoms of bone metastases

metastatic breast cancermore oftenspreads to the bones Symptoms of bone metastases include:

  • Bone or joint pain that persists or that may worsen with activity
  • back or neck pain
  • increased risk ofbroken bones
  • Numbness or weakness in certain areas of the body
  • Difficulty urinating
  • called
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • extreme headquarters

Symptoms of lung metastases

When breast cancer has spread to the lungs, a person may experience:

  • a dry cough that won't go away
  • shortness of breath or shortness of breath
  • panting
  • coughing up blood and phlegm
  • Pain in the chest or lungs

Symptoms of brain metastases

Breast cancer that has spread to the brain can cause symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • vision changes
  • hearing difficulties
  • balance problems or seas
  • Difficulty moving certain parts of the body.
  • Mood or personality changes
  • memory problems
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • AVK

Symptoms of liver metastases

When breast cancer spreads to the liver, it can cause:

  • jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Swelling in the abdomen due to the accumulation of fluid.
  • Pain around the liver or in the upper right part of the abdomen
  • skin rashes or itching

end of life symptoms

(Video) How long can you expect to live with metastatic breast cancer?

When metastatic breast cancer stops responding to treatment, a person and their health care team may decide to shift their focus to end-of-life care. During this time, a person may experience symptoms of metastatic breast cancer in addition to end-of-life symptoms. This may include:

  • Insect: Cancer can cause significant pain as it progresses.
  • fatigue: As the body continues to deal with the spread of cancer, it is common to feel very tired. A person nearing the end of his life can sleep many hours a day.
  • labored breathing: Breathing can become difficult for a variety of reasons. Sometimes mucus collects in the lungs or throat, partially blocking the airways. This can affect breathing and cause difficulty swallowing. Fluid buildup in the abdomen, or ascites, can put pressure on the lungs and make it difficult for them to expand. Ascites is common in breast cancer that has spread to the liver.
  • loss of appetite: It is normal for a person to lose interest in food towards the end of life. TOdry mouthand throat, changes in taste and smell, and decreased need forcaloriesit can make it difficult for a person to eat. Nausea and constipation can also reduce your appetite.
  • weightloss: People with metastatic breast cancer may lose weight for a variety of reasons. As appetite decreases, caloric intake also decreases. Also, cancer cells consume many of the calories that a person eats.
  • confusion: Confusion and memory problems are common in late-stage cancer. These symptoms can come and go.
  • digestive problems: Metastatic cancer can slow or stop digestion, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, constipation, and other digestive problems.
  • emotional changes: Dealing with the end of life can lead to thisDepression,distress, humor changes,to emphasize, and a variety of emotions.

All of these symptoms are normal as the cancer progresses. End-of-life care focuses on relieving these symptoms and improving quality of life.

End-of-life symptoms can be difficult for someone with metastatic breast cancer, but palliative care can help.

Some people choose to receive hospice care at home from nurses and other health professionals. Others may choose to receive their care at a clinic specializing in hospice and end-of-life care.

A person with metastatic breast cancer may want to discuss their care preferences with friends, family, and their medical team.

It can be difficult to start a discussion about the comfort measures in which a person wishes to receive care, religious or spiritual requests, and burial preferences.

However, by discussing these details ahead of time, you can ensure that a person's final months are more comfortable and that caregivers can accommodate the person's wishes as much as possible.

(Video) Metastatic Breast Cancer - living the last weeks in the 'dying time'

treatment of physical symptoms

Several medications can help relieve pain.American Cancer Society (ACS)Insist that a person should not bear pain in the last months and days of life.

Many people find relief with opioid medications, but opioid medications can cause side effects such asfatigueand constipation. A person may use opioids in combination with other pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Other medicines likeantidepressantsand antispasmodic medications, they can also treat certain types of pain.

Doctors may also prescribe medicine for nausea and vomiting. Some medicines used to treat nausea can make you drowsy. However, these medicines can help people eat and drink more, or just make it easier for them to function and interact with others.

emotional and spiritual care

End-of-life care also includes emotional, mental, and spiritual therapy. A person's health care team may include social workers, counselors,Mental healthprofessionals and religious or spiritual advisers.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America40 percentof people with cancer experience severe psychological distress. This can include anxiety, depression,panic attacks, zpost traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).

Medication, therapy, religious or spiritual rituals, and support groups can help a person deal with mental health issues and stress during this difficult time.

Caregivers may also need help with stress, anxiety, and depression. The palliative care team can usually support and counsel family members in their emotional needs.

oBreast Cancer Health Line Requestgives people access to an online breast cancer community where users can connect with others and receive advice and support through group discussions.

The role of caregivers

Nurses also play an important role in making sure that a person with cancer is as comfortable as possible. To help, a caregiver can:

(Video) Real Stories. Andrea "Mimi" Ankerholz on end-of-life decision making and saying goodbye.

  • Help them get out of bed. If you can, help the person stand up every 1 to 2 hours. If he can't do it, help him roll over in bed so he's comfortable and avoidpressure ulcers.
  • Create a comfortable environment. Keep the person's room at a comfortable temperature. If they are cold, buy extra blankets. Avoid using heating pads and electric blankets, which can cause burns. Also, make sure the room is well ventilated by opening windows or using fans to make it easier for the person to breathe.
  • Understand your eating habits. Do not force a person to eat or drink unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Caregivers may be upset or worried when a person with cancer does not eat. However, you should try to understand that it may be difficult or impossible for a person to eat or drink when they are not feeling well, are exhausted, or have no appetite. Try ice chips to keep your mouth moist.
  • Help them conserve their energy.. Only allow visitors that the person wants to see. If the person is exhausted, limit the number of visitors or ask them to come into the person's room to avoid getting up unnecessarily.
  • Manage your pain levels. Watch for signs of pain or discomfort. Groaning, grimacing, or seeming restless can be signs that a person is in pain. Work with your doctor to make sure you get adequate pain control if the person can't do it on their own.
  • change your position. Help them experiment with different positions, e.g. B. propping himself up on pillows so he can breathe easier and interact with others.
  • be patient. Understand if the person doesn't remember things or behaves differently. If necessary, explain it to visitors so they are aware of these changes before they interact with the person.
  • say comforting things. Remember that the person can hear you even if he appears to be asleep or unable to speak. This can be an opportunity to share favorite memories or words of comfort with them. Avoid saying things that may cause unnecessary stress in front of them.

Doctors will make diagnoses in 2018, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncologyinvasive breast cancerin an estimate268,670 personasus united states

ohot water statusthat the 5-year relative survival rate for people with metastatic breast cancer is about 22%. This means that people with metastatic breast cancer are 22% more likely to live at least 5 years after diagnosis.

However, many factors can affect how long a person with metastatic breast cancer lives, including:

  • the type of breast cancer
  • breast cancer stage
  • where the cancer has spread
  • how well the cancer is responding to treatment
  • any other health problems the person has

Everyone has a different perspective. It's also important to note that survival rates are only estimates and that doctors base these numbers on data that is at least 5 years old. Continued advances in cancer treatment mean that survival rates are improving.


(Video) How to treat breathlessness in End Stage Cancer patients? - Dr. Nanda Rajaneesh

The end-of-life symptoms of metastatic breast cancer vary from person to person. Addressing a person's unique physical, emotional, and spiritual needs during this time can help them have the best possible quality of life in the final weeks or months.

Read the article in Spanish.


1. What is Metastatic Breast Cancer? - Dr Tasha explains in this video
(Dr Tasha)
2. Metastatic Breast Cancer - How Palliative Care Can Help
(Dr. Susan Love Foundation)
3. Quick Guide on Symptoms of Bone Metastases for Metastatic Breast Cancer Survivors
(Cancer Support Community)
4. How I Found Out my Cancer Came Back | Metastatic Breast Cancer
5. Lisa's story - living and dying with cancer
(NorthDevon Hospice)
6. I was told, “You’re stage 4. This is going to kill you." | Abigail’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Story
(The Patient Story)
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