What You Need to Know

Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer and indicates that cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Cancer can spread locally by moving into nearby normal tissue or regionally to nearby lymph nodes, tissues, or organs.

Symptoms

Symptoms may vary depending where the cancer has spread to. The National Cancer Institute has identified symptoms that vary by locations associated with breast cancer metastasis.

Metastasis in the Bone

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bones that fracture easily
  • Numbness and tingling or weakness

Metastasis to the Brain

  • Persistent and progressive headaches
  • Vision abnormalities
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Behavioral/personality changes

Metastasis to the Liver

  • Jaundice
  • Irritated skin
  • Abnormally high enzymes in the liver
  • Abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

Metastasis to the Lungs

  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abnormal chest X-ray
  • Chest pain

An important consideration is that metastatic breast cancer can relapse up to several decades after the initial diagnosis of a primary breast cancer. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should immediately consult with your physician. 

Screening and Diagnosis

Your physician will order several blood and imaging tests if metastasis is suspected. Additionally, a biopsy is performed when these tests show evidence of metastasis. Your doctor will discuss options for treatment and develop a treatment plan with you if these tests are positive for spread of breast cancer to other areas of the body.

Treatment/Disease Management

Although metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured, it can be treated successfully and some patients experience prolonged survival. Through the metastatic breast cancer program, physicians in the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center offer personalized treatment plans for you and your support team in addition to access to the latest clinical trials.