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

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



  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, contact the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. Se habla español.
  • Komen Patient Navigators can help guide you through the health care system as you go through a breast cancer diagnosis. They can help to remove barriers to high-quality breast care. For example, they can help you with insurance, local resources, communication with health care providers and more. Call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email to learn more about our Patient Navigator program, including eligibility.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those living with metastatic breast cancer, and those who love them, can find support, friendship and information. Visit Facebook, search for Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer (Stage IV) Group and request to join the closed group.
  • Our free MBC Impact Series provides people living with metastatic breast cancer and their loved ones a safe, collaborative space to gather information related to MBC and discover practical resources to help make decisions for improved physical and emotional health. To learn more and register visit
  • Our podcast series Real Pink covers many relevant topics for people living with metastatic breast cancer and caregivers.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Updated 12/20/22