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While new treatments have given patients a new lease of life, cancer patients may still experience complications as a direct result of the disease progressing. It is important to be aware of the types of complications and share them with your doctor for timely diagnosis and management as it can be difficult to differentiate between treatment induced complications and disease related symptoms from disease progression62.

Triple-negative breast cancer complications can include:

Bone complications68

Bone complications TNBC complications

Breast cancer can spread to the bones and can lead to bone pain, spinal compression and elevated calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcemia). In people whose cancer has spread to the bones, the process of breaking down bone (bone resorption) may happen rapidly.

Treatment options:

Bisphosphonates help to slow the rate of resorption by destroying the cells responsible for it. This in turn lowers blood calcium levels, slows the weakening of bone structure and reduces bone pain.

Lung complications69

Lung complications TNBC complications

Triple-negative breast cancer is more likely than other types of breast cancer to spread to the lungs. Breast cancer that has spread to the lungs may cause symptoms that include pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent cough and coughing up blood and mucus.

Treatment options:

Treatment for breast cancer that has spread to the lungs is different from that of lung cancer. Medicines which treat cancer throughout the entire body are typically prescribed for breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body such as chemotherapy, a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, or targeted therapy.

Brain complications70, 71

Brain complications TNBC complications

The risk of breast cancer spreading to the brain is higher in those with triple-negative breast cancer. When breast cancer spreads to the brain, you may experience headaches, changes in speech or vision, limb weakness or paralysis, mood or personality changes, seizures and stroke.

Treatment options:

Medicines which treat cancer throughout the entire body are usually prescribed. Local treatment that targets the brain such as brain surgery or radiotherapy, are sometimes recommended.

Liver complications72

Liver complications TNBC complications

Although breast cancer that has spread to the liver may not display symptoms in the beginning, it can later cause pain or discomfort, fatigue and weakness, weight loss or poor appetite, fever, bloating, swelling in the legs and jaundice (yellowish skin or whites of the eyes).

Treatment options:

Medicines which treat cancer throughout the entire body are typically prescribed. At times, local treatment that targets the liver may be recommended.