When my mom had breast cancer 16 years ago, I thought all breast cancer was the same or similar enough to be virtually indistinguishable. Boy, was I wrong! There are, right now, eight (8) different subtypes and scientists are learning more about them all the time.
Different subtypes tend to spread to different parts of the body to take up residence. My subtype, with hormone positive (Estrogen and progesterone) receptors and HER2 negative (meaning no receptors), tends to spread to the bones first around 60% of the time. Lungs and liver are the second most likely and the brain is usually last, but this is not a hard and fast rule since everyone is different.
However, I also have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (meaning the cancer spread beyond the milk ducts in my left breast) with Lobular features. IDC is responsible for hard, roundish tumors that develop in the breast. Lobular breast cancer, on the other hand, looks a lot like lace. It spreads out like a spider web and doesn’t form a tumor that can be felt or seen on most testing.
Lobular breast cancer tends to spread to the soft tissue like the lining of the abdomen or the eyes, which also are often hard to find since Lobular doesn’t tend to light up like tumors do on PET scans. A wonderful organization that addresses many of the issues facing men and women with Lobular Breast Cancer is the Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance. Head on over and check out their page and learn more.
So, the bottom line is that there are statistics and likelihoods, but no guarantees.
One other note about bone mets (which is what I have) — bone mets tend to gravitate towards the bones with the largest bone marrow since the blood supply is the richest there. The long bones of the femurs and the pelvis are usually hardest hit, but the spine is not far behind. Other bones like the ribs tend to have pathological fractures since they tend to be more fragile. The main symptom that leads to a diagnosis of bone metastases or progression is pain, pain that is different from any other.
When I was diagnosed, I was limping and I’d been living with pain in my legs for quite a while. Turned out, I had a 5 cm tumor in the middle of my right femur, as well as numerous other metastases spread out through my bones. It was that tumor in my leg that was causing pain, it was that tumor that interfered with my quality of life, it was that tumor that resulted in having to undergo surgery to insert titanium rods inside both femurs.
Now you know more about metastasis and where the cancer usually spreads when it leaves the breast.