How Common Is It?
Approximately 155,000 people in the United States are currently diagnosed and living with metastatic breast cancer. The disease is responsible for an estimated 42,000 deaths in the U.S. on an annual basis. About 6-percent of women have metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis of breast cancer.
What is the Mortality Rate?
The majority of American deaths aren’t caused by the initial cancer of the breast—they occur years later when the cancer returns and spreads to a major organ, such as the brain, lungs, liver, or takes root in the bones. The chance a woman will die from breast cancer is 1 in 38 or 2.6-percent.
Who Gets It?
Metastatic breast cancer doesn’t target anyone in the population more than others according to gender or age. In fact, both men and women, young and elderly are regularly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic disease has more to do with how long the period has had cancer — the longer it goes without diagnosis, the higher the chance of metastatic disease. The goal of early diagnosis is to prevent metastasis.
How Does it Spread?
Breast cancer spreads, or metastasizes, by entering the bloodstream or lymphatic system and then spreads to other body parts such as the lungs, bone or brain. According to Healthline there are several ways cancer can spread in the body. The first is direct invasion which happens when the cancer spreads to a nearby organ in the body. Cancer cells will take root and grow in this new area, says the source.
The second is lymphangitic spread which occurs “when cancer travels through the lymphatic system. Breast cancer often involves the nearby lymph nodes, so the cancer can enter the lymph circulatory system and take hold in different parts of the body,” writes Healthline. Lastly, there is hematogenous spread which is similar to lymphangitic spread, but instead of moving through the lymph circulatory system it moves through the blood vessels. “The cancer cells travel through the body and take root in remote areas and organs.”