Tests for Metastases in People Newly Diagnosed with 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 lymph 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 for metastases are:
- Blood tests to check for spread to the liver or bones
- Bone scans to check for spread to the bones
- X-rays and/or CT scans to check for spread to the chest, abdomen or liver
Positron emission tomography (PET) and other tests for metastases (for example, MRI) may be done, depending on your symptoms and the findings from the main tests.
If the diagnosis is metastatic breast cancer
Metastatic breast cancer is also called stage IV (4) or advanced breast cancer. It’s not a specific type of breast cancer. It’s the most advanced stage of 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.
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