How Does Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer Spread to Bone, Lung, & Liver?

One of the most common ways that stage IV breast cancer metastasizes or spreads to the lung, liver and bone is if it is misdiagnosed. Cancer cells multiply and spread through the blood stream and oftentimes to the lymph nodes. Perhaps routine cancer testing such as a mammogram, PET scan, MRI, Bone scan, X-ray or CAT scan may have only shown the primary tumor and not the metastasis. It could also go undetected if there was a secondary tumor or lesion that developed shortly after the cancer was diagnosed.

Making sure to have followup care even with a stage I cancer may prevent a trace of cancer going undiagnosed. There may also be abnormalities that exist with the primary tumor such as that not all of it was removed with surgery. Even with aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy focused on the cancer left behind, it can still quickly spread and create a secondary tumor or metastasize to the liver, bones and lungs.

Unresponsive to Treatment
In some cases when a stage IV breast cancer is detected, a high-dosage round of chemotherapy, radiation and other forms of treatment may be used to kill the cancer cells. But when the cancer has metastasized to vital functioning organs such as the liver—which filters out toxins in the body—the overall health of the person may become severely affected, making it harder for the body to fight off the disease. The further the cancer has spread from the breast or primary tumor, the harder it is to treat. Radiation therapy is often not an option except to merely shrink the tumor. If there are multiple metastases, it may be difficult to treat as a large amount of radiation in the body can be deadly. Many times small amounts of radiation are used as a form of palliative care therapy in order to keep the patient comfortable during her last few months of life.

Aggressive Cancer
In most cases, metastatic breast cancer to the bone, liver and lungs is a form of aggressive cancer. This means that it invades outside organs and tissue fast and rapidly. It also means that it can be very resilient to therapy and hard to treat. Cancer that has already spread to the bones eats away at bone and can make the body structure weak and increase pain in the joints. Breast cancer that has also made its way to the lungs not only causes pain, it can make breathing difficult, if not unbearable. Oxygen therapy and breathing treatments may be necessary as a form of palliative care to help the patient remain comfortable. Aggressive cancer that has invaded the liver can be difficult to treat and contain because the liver is a vital organ to human function. In some cases small areas of cancer in the liver may be removed as opposed to risking damage through radiation therapy.