Metastatic breast cancer
Metastatic breast cancer occurs when cancer cells spread to another part of the body. Breast cancer can be metastatic at the time of diagnosis, or following treatment. Cancer cells can travel through the bloodstream and spread to other organs and parts of the body.
The most common sites of metastases are the breast or area where the breast used to be, the chest wall, the lymph nodes, the bones, the lungs or around the lungs, the liver or the brain. If you have been treated for breast cancer and now have cancer cells in any of these areas, it is most likely breast cancer that has spread.
Metastatic breast cancer is different to recurrent breast cancer. Recurrent breast cancer is cancer that returns to the same part of the same breast after treatment, rather than to other parts of the body. When cancer develops in the second breast, it is almost always a new cancer, not a recurrence.
Metastatic breast cancer treatment options
Treatment for metastatic breast cancer often includes some type of systemic therapy, such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy.
The bone is the most common site of spread from breast cancer. Our Orthopedic Oncology Program offers advanced treatments and procedures for breast cancer bone metastasis. Treatments for advanced breast cancer are different from treatments for early stage breast cancer. A common treatment for breast cancer that spreads to the bone is Zometa®, which is in a class of drugs called bisphosphonates. Generally administered through an infusion, this treatment is used to reduce the risk of bone complications, such as fractures.
Another area of the body where breast cancer sometimes spreads is the nervous system. Our Neurosurgery Program offers advanced treatments and procedures for metastatic brain and spinal cancers. We also help you manage the unique challenges associated with metastatic breast cancer to the brain, including mobility and communication difficulties.
Learn about breast cancer symptoms