Advanced breast cancer, also known as metastatic, secondary or stage IV breast cancer, is a cancer that has spread beyond the breast and armpit or to other parts of the body. Metastatic cancer occurs when cells from the primary cancer site break away and travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymph nodes.
Parts of the body affected are usually the bones, liver, lungs and occasionally the brain or skin. Other parts of the body can be affected but this is rare. Secondary breast cancer may be diagnosed years after primary breast cancer. Occasionally for some women, secondary breast cancer is their first diagnosis of breast cancer.
Advanced breast cancer can be treated but it cannot be cured. There are many treatments available and the aim is to control and slow down the disease to enable you to have the best possible quality of life for as long as possible, which can often be for many years.
You can find more information about all the treatments available for secondary breast cancer in our section on treatments but, in general, treatments depend on where the cancer has spread to, whether other parts of the body are affected, your age and overall health and what treatments you have had in the past.
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