Metastatic Breast Cancer
What is metastatic breast cancer?
Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer) is not a specific type of breast cancer. It’s the most advanced stage of breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain).
Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it’s still breast cancer and treated as breast cancer.
For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bones is still breast cancer (not bone cancer). So, it’s treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the bones.
How many people have metastatic breast cancer?
It’s estimated there are more than 168,000 women living with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. in 2020 . Men can also have metastatic breast cancer.
When can metastatic breast cancer occur?
Most often, metastatic breast cancer arises months or years after a person has completed treatment for early or locally advanced breast cancer. This is sometimes called a distant recurrence.
Some people have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed (called de novo metastatic breast cancer). However, this isn’t common in the U.S. (6 percent of diagnoses in women and 9 percent of diagnoses in men) .
Learn more about breast cancer recurrence.
Read our perspective on living with metastatic breast cancer.*
Although metastatic breast cancer can’t be cured today, it can be treated. Treatment focuses on extending life and maintaining quality of life.
Treatment is guided by many factors, including:
- The biology of the tumor (characteristics of the cancer cells)
- Where the cancer has spread
- Past breast cancer treatments
- Personal goals and preferences
Learn more about treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Learn about managing side effects and supportive care.
Modern treatments continue to improve survival for people with metastatic breast cancer. However, survival varies greatly from person to person.
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*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date.
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