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Metastatic breast cancer

Metastatic breast cancer, also known as stage IV or advanced breast cancer, is breast cancer that has metastasized, or spread, to other organs in the body. Metastases from breast cancer may be found in lymph nodes in the armpit, or they can travel anywhere in the body. Common sites include distant organs like the lung, liver, bone and brain. Even after an original tumor is removed, microscopic tumor cells may remain in the body, which allows the cancer to return and spread.

Patients may initially be diagnosed with metastatic disease, or they may develop metastases months or years after their initial treatment. The risk of breast cancer returning and metastasizing varies from person to person and depends greatly on the biology of the tumor and the stage at the time of the original diagnosis.

Learn more about metastatic cancer

Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer

The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer may vary depending on where in the body the cancer has spread. For example:

  • If the breast or chest wall is affected, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
  • If the cancer has spread to bones, symptoms may include pain, fractures or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
  • If the cancer has spread to the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain or fatigue.
  • If the cancer has spread to the liver, symptoms may include nausea, fatigue, swelling of the feet and hands or yellowing skin.
  • If cancer has spread to the central nervous system, which includes the brain or spinal cord, symptoms may include pain, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with and/or movement or seizures.

Learn more about the symptoms of breast cancer

Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer

Treatment for metastatic breast cancer includes many of the same treatments as other stages of breast cancer:

These treatments may be given alone or in combination. Some patients with metastatic breast cancer may also be eligible to participate in a clinical trial

Learn more about treatments for breast cancer

Supportive care for metastatic breast cancer

To help our patients maintain quality of life after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, our team of breast cancer experts may offer supportive care services to help manage side effects of the disease and its treatments. These may include:

Learn more about integrative care

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