The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Tests for Metastases in People Newly Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer is also called stage IV (4) or advanced breast cancer. It is not a specific type of breast cancer. It’s the most advanced stage of breast cancer.

Metastasis occurs when breast cancer spreads beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs in the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain).

Most people newly diagnosed with breast cancer don’t need tests to check for metastases. If you’ve been diagnosed with early breast cancer (stage I or stage II) you probably won’t have these tests.

When are tests for metastases done?

If the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the underarm area (the axillary nodes) or you’ve been diagnosed with locally advanced breast cancer or inflammatory breast cancer, you may need tests for metastases.

What tests may be done?

The main tests are:

  • Blood tests to check for spread to the liver or bones
  • Bone scans to check for spread to the bone
  • X-rays and/or CT scans to check for spread to the chest, abdomen and liver

Positron emission tomography (PET) and other tests for metastases may be done, depending on your symptoms and the findings from the main tests.

If the diagnosis is metastatic breast cancer

Although metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured today, it can be treated.

Modern treatments continue to improve survival for people with metastatic breast cancer.

Learn about treatment for metastatic breast cancer


Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at Se habla español.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships in order to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Updated 11/16/21