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Metastatic Breast Cancer Recurrence Table

Metastatic breast cancer is usually detected because of symptoms. The treatment of metastatic breast cancer depends on the area of the recurrence, the extent of the recurrence, and the type of treatments you have already had.

Symptoms and treatment for recurrent breast cancer
Area affected Symptom Treatment

Breast or chest wall

  • Lump or thickening in the breast or under the arm
  • Changes in size or shape of the breast
  • Changes in the skin of the breast or chest wall
  • Chest wall pain
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Surgery to treat a local recurrence to the breast, under the arm, or on the chest wall
  • Hormone therapy, such as tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor for cancers that are fed by estrogen (ER+)
  • Chemotherapy, such as doxorubicin or cyclophosphamide
  • Radiation treatments

Bones, especially the back, hips, or sternum

  • Pain
  • Fractures
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased alertness from high calcium levels
  • Radiation treatment to reduce bone pain, fractures, and spinal cord compression
  • Hormone therapy, such as tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor for cancers that are fed by estrogen (ER+)
  • Chemotherapy, such as paclitaxel or vinorelbine
  • Bisphosphonates, such as pamidronate or zoledronic acid

Lungs

  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Chest wall pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Hormone therapy, such as tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor for cancers that are fed by estrogen (ER+)
  • Chemotherapy, such as paclitaxel or vinorelbine

Liver

  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Increased abdominal girth
  • Fluid collection (edema) in the feet and legs
  • Yellowing or itching of the skin
  • Hormone therapy, such as tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor for cancers that are fed by estrogen (ER+)
  • Chemotherapy, such as paclitaxel or vinorelbine

Brain and spinal cord

  • Pain
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Headache
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Change in how the skin senses touch, pain, or any other physical feeling
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble standing, moving, or walking
  • Seizures
  • Radiation treatments to the brain or spinal cord
  • Chemotherapy delivered directly into the spinal fluid (intrathecal chemotherapy)
  • Corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, to reduce swelling in the brain and spinal cord
  • Surgery to remove pressure on the spinal cord
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised August 14, 2013

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