Advanced breast cancer

Breast cancer

Advanced breast cancer

What is advanced breast cancer?

Advanced breast cancer (ABC), also known as metastatic, secondary or stage 4 breast cancer, is cancer that has spread from the breast or armpit. It occurs when cancer cells move through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body, most commonly the bones, lungs, liver and sometimes the brain.

Advanced breast cancer can occur months or years after an earlier breast cancer. For some women, it may be their first diagnosis, which is known as de novo metastatic breast cancer.

Signs and symptoms to look out for

The signs and symptoms of ABC can vary depending on where the cancer has spread.

Tests and diagnosis

If you have any new signs or symptoms associated with ABC, your doctor will recommend certain tests and investigations.

Treatment options

Advanced breast cancer is treated using hormone therapy, chemotherapy and targeted (biological) therapy, as well as local treatment, such as surgery and radiation.

Managing symptoms and side effects

Advanced breast cancer and its treatment can cause a range of symptoms and side effects. These will depend on the site of your cancer and the type of treatment you are having.

Living with ABC

Living with ABC is often described as a ‘rollercoaster’. Find out more about support services available, including the BCFNZ nurse advice line, counselling, and peer support groups.