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A chest x-ray is a necessary precautionary for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The chest x-ray is used for a number of reasons associated with breast cancer. Most significantly, breast cancer patients should have routine chest x-rays to eliminate the possibility that the cancer has spread to the lungs through the bloodstream.
Breast cancer patients must also have a chest x-ray prior to any anesthesia or chemotherapy treatment to determine the heart and lung capacity. In addition to having a chest x-ray before the treatments, some women experience fevers as a result of the chemotherapy treatments and a chest x-ray must be used to determine if there is pneumonia present in the lungs. Some breast cancer patients may experience persistent shortness of breath following chemotherapy treatments. In these circumstances, chest x-rays are administered to determine if the patient has experienced inflammation of the lungs.
Chest x-rays are also used to closely monitor the lungs of patients with Metastatic Disease. Metastatic Disease is best described as a chronic cancer that spreads slowly and rapidly throughout the bloodstream of the body to different organs.
Between 60 and 70 percent of breast cancer related deaths are women whose cancer has spread to their lungs. In 21 percent of these instances, the lung is the only organ affected by the spread of cancer. While symptoms are not always present when metastatis occurs, common symptoms include shortness of breath and a dry cough.
In cases where the patient experiences no symptoms, the only way to detect cancer that has spread to the lungs is through a chest x-ray or a CT scan. If cancer does spread to the lungs, chemotherapy or other anti-cancer drugs must be administered. In rare cases where the cancer is concentrated in a particular area of the lung, a small piece may be removed.
When breast cancer is spread by the penetration of cancer cells into the blood stream, the cancer moves throughout the body until it becomes immovable. Most often, the blood flows from organs in the body to the blood capillaries in lungs, making the lungs a vulnerable organ for the spread of cancer. Another factor that can affect the spread of cancer from the breasts to the lungs is smoking. Women whose breast cancer spread from the breast to the lungs were more than twice as likely to be smokers.