Effects Of Breast Cancer On The Lungs


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Effects Of Breast Cancer On The Lungs

Cancer is a disease, so deadly that everyone gets terrified of it. No doubt, cancer can affect you in the worst way possible. Not only physically, but also emotionally. The emotional and social sufferings inflicted by it are even more agonizing.

The key to fight cancer efficiently is to be observant. The lesser stage the cancer has progressed to, the greater the chances to treat it successfully. Always try to figure out any change in your body that you may find deviated from normal variations or the common symptoms associated specially with the cancer.

Never take these signs and symptoms light or as routine fatigue or pain, because your body present them to communicate with you. Seek medical guidance from your primary physician in case you are experiencing any deviations. Likewise, if you are having shortness of breath, productive cough and discomfort in chest along with weight loss and blood with coughing, there is a possibility you can have more than just a lung disease.

Cancer in your breast can easily slip into the lymph or blood and reach the lungs. Basically, cancer is the name given to abnormal cells that has the potential to invade other tissues and organs. This can include the lungs. Let’s see how breast cancer can affect the lungs through this invasion.

Breast Cancer:

The abnormal cell growth that takes its origin in breast tissue is termed breast cancer. If the tumor, that is a mass of abnormal cells, remains localized, it is not known as cancer, but a benign tumor.

For a tumor to be labelled as cancerous, or in medical terms “malignant tumor”, it must have potential to metastasize. Metastasis of the tumor is the ability of tumor to reach distant sites and invade these organs as well, giving rise to secondary cancer.

Metastasis Of Breast Cancer:

As every cancer has the ability to leave its site of origin and invade distant organs, the same is the case with breast cancer. The ability of breast cancer to metastasize to other organs depends on the stage it has progressed to. Out of the five stages of metastasis that ranges from 0-4, stage IV is used to demonstrate that cancer has reached an organ.

Most frequently, breast cancer invades bones, then the lungs and liver. Whichever organ the cancerous cells invade, they pose serious threats to these organs (because metastasis is advanced form of cancer) and are generally not successfully treated. Breast cancer is a prevalent disease.

Because of ignorance of the early symptoms, it is often diagnosed when it has already progressed to an advanced stage. The common signs associated with breast cancer should be noted as anticipation for its metastasis. They include swelling of all or a part of the breast, lump formation, dimpling in skin, redness or thickening of the nipple and nipple discharge other than milk. Have a checkup with your primary doctor if you observe any of these changes in your breast.

Secondary Lung Cancer:

In stage IV of breast cancer, if the malignant cells target the lungs as their site of invasion, it is known as secondary lung cancer. We use “secondary” with lung cancer as the site of origin of cancer is not the lungs. Therefore stage IV breast cancer and secondary lung cancer, are both the same mechanism.

The last stage of cancer, stage IV breast cancer, denotes the breast cancer has advanced to the extent it is difficult to handle effectively. Secondary lung cancer can be often be treated, but not cured (Tobias and Hochhauser, 2010). So one needs to be extra vigilant to seek medical care prior to the progression of cancer to the last stage, by self-identifying the common symptoms associated with it.

How Do Cancerous Cells Reach the Lungs?

Cancerous cells have the ability to spread to different organs. This abnormal growth of cells start initially at a particular location. With the advancement of cancer, some of the cancerous cells can detach from their original site and reach other organs.

The spread of cancer is by one of the two ways, primarily through lymph, the other being blood. Before the last stage of cancer, in stage III, cancerous cells reach the lymph nodes through the flow of lymph. Presence of these cells at lymph nodes give the insight that cancer has already advanced.

Symptoms Of Secondary Lung Cancer:

You can have noticeable symptoms of secondary lung cancer, and even may have dismissed mixing it with the common flu or infection. If you have previously treated for breast cancer, you should not take these symptoms for granted. Even if the treatment of breast cancer is completed, the cancerous growth can recur. It is because the initial treatment of low stage cancer may have not eliminated all the cancerous cells. Some microscopic abnormal cells may prevail allowing the cancer to metastasize, giving rise to recurrence of cancer. The common symptoms associated with secondary lung cancer are:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Persistent cough with or without coughing up blood.
  • A loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Heaviness in chest, chest pain and chest infections.
  • Pleural effusion i.e. fluid between the lung and its covering.

Management Of Symptoms:

Secondary lung cancer is treated for extended periods as generally it cannot be cured because of the advancement of disease. The rate of successful recovery or mortality rate depends on the extent of disease, attitude of the patient, and the response to treatment.

To fight cancer, determination and resilience are indeed very important factors. The common symptoms related to secondary lung cancer can be managed to improve quality of life. However, no medicine should be used without recommendation from the primary physician or oncologist.

  • Dyspnea:

Shortness of breath is medically termed as dyspnea. Generally, it does not pose any serious threats, yet it can be distressing. You can experience dyspnea while being inactive or lying, it is quite noticeable when you are walking or doing exertion. Medicines are used to treat dyspnea depending on what causes it.

If dyspnea is caused due to the blocked lymph channels in lungs, steroid drugs like dexamethasone or prednisolone are mostly used. On the other hand, if infections are the cause of breathlessness, antibiotics are used as treatment.

For the non-pharmacological management of dyspnea, relaxation and breathing technique should be learned. There are several other practices that are helpful with breathlessness like cooling your face, using a hand held fan or sitting in an open place or near the window.

  • Cough:

Persistent cough is another symptom in secondary lung cancer that can be very stressful. Cough medicines are used to control cough. Many times, mucous builds up in the lungs and is expelled through coughing.

  • Pain:

Pain associated with secondary lung cancer is not very common. However, if cancerous cells affect the pleura (covering of lungs), the pain experienced can be worse than dyspnea or coughing.

There are different types of analgesics and combination of medicines to treat the pain that ultimately decrease the anxiety and it is easy to doze off. Pain should be assessed regularly to keep the discomfort to a minimum.

  • Weight Loss:

Poor appetite and weight loss is one of the many challenges experienced by cancer patients. Such patients cannot eat much and it is difficult to have set meals. The alternate is to eat more frequently, even if you are eating less. In some cases, prescribed medication from your doctor can also stimulate the appetite.


Breast cancer is very common in women and it can metastasize to the lungs as a secondary site. The death rate with secondary lung cancer is high, almost 90%. In order to control the death rate associated with it, women need to examine their bodies thoroughly for any signs of breast cancer and seek medical care before it progresses to an advanced stage.

If you have already treated for breast cancer in the past, you still can have secondary lung cancer as some microscopic cancerous cells can survive the treatment. It is important to keep your immune system strong and know which foods you need to eliminate.









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