Breast cancer more likely to spread to liver in young women

"By better understanding how metastatic breast cancer evolves, clinicians can provide earlier intervention and more targeted treatment for those with or at risk of developing metastatic disease," says Margaret Cummings. (Credit: SJ_Sanders/Flickr)

Women younger than 50 with breast cancer are more likely to develop secondary cancer in the liver or gynecological organs, research shows.

A new study also finds that patients with bone metastases, when the cancer spreads from one part of the body to another, have an increased chance of developing brain metastases.

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Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer related deaths worldwide, with about 90 percent of these deaths due to secondary cancers (metastatic breast cancer).

The findings may help improve breast cancer diagnosis and patient management, says Margaret Cummings, lead investigator and associate professor at the Centre for Clinical Research at the University of Queensland.

“By better understanding how metastatic breast cancer evolves, clinicians can provide earlier intervention and more targeted treatment for those with or at risk of developing metastatic disease.

“Secondary cancers in various organs show differences from the primary cancer which could be important in making treatment decisions. In the future, if possible, the metastases may have to be biopsied to get a more accurate profile for deciding therapy.”

Treatment guidelines

For the study, researches analyzed the autopsy results of nearly 200 women who had fatal metastatic breast cancer at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. Metastases in a range of different organs were examined and compared to the primary breast cancer.

“Guidelines for the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer are well established but the management of patients with metastatic disease is much less clearly defined,” Cummings says.

Currently, treatment of metastatic disease is based on the phenotype of the primary cancer, and evidence is accumulating that this may not be appropriate.

“By carefully analyzing the actual metastatic tumors from a large number of women with metastatic breast cancer, we wanted to understand how and why metastases spread to the different organs and how they behave in those different sites.”

Source: University of Queensland