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What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?

Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer) is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain).

Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it is considered and treated as breast cancer. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bones is still breast cancer (not bone cancer) and is treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the bones.

Some women have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed (called de novo metastatic breast cancer). However, this is not common in the U.S. (5 percent of diagnoses). More commonly, metastatic breast cancer arises months or years after a person has completed treatment for early or locally advanced (stage I, II or III) breast cancer. This is sometimes called distant recurrence.

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 original diagnosis.

As hard as it is to hear, metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured. Unlike breast cancer that remains in the breast or nearby lymph nodes, you cannot get rid of all the cancer that has spread to other organs.

This does not mean, however, that metastatic breast cancer cannot be treated. Treatment of metastatic breast cancer focuses on length and quality of life.

Click here to learn the recommended treatments for Metastatic Breast Cancer.

SOURCE: Susan G. Komen Foundation