Secondary Breast Cancer

I need to know that this body is my body. And I need to know everything that is happening to my body. But most of all I need to know that you know that within my body there is me.

(Michele Petrone, Artist, died 16th May 2007)

Secondary Breast Cancer

Secondary breast cancer (also known as metastasis disease, secondary tumours or advanced breast cancer) means that our breast cancer cells have travelled to another part of our body, normally the liver, lungs or bones. It can also, in rarer cases, spread to the brain. It's not curable but advances in medical treatments means that our disease can be controlled for months and, in some cases, years. It also means that we can still enjoy a good quality of life for longer.

Local recurrence is different to secondary breast cancer as local recurrence means it comes back in the same breast. If it spreads to areas around the breast such as the skin, muscles on the chest wall, lymph nodes under the breast bone between the ribs or the nodes above the collarbone it is known as a regional recurrence. People will need further treatment but they are not classed as having secondary breast cancer.

For those of us who have a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer there is awareness that our needs, questions and concerns are different from women who have primary breast cancer. It's very important to try and obtain emotional support no matter its source, i.e. health professionals, family, friends, work colleagues or other patients as this is as vital as coping with the side effects of treatment and the pain and symptoms of secondary breast cancer.

The following may also be of help to you:

Gold Standards Framework:

The Gold Standards Framework acknowledges that living with a diagnosis such as secondary breast cancer means that we have different needs. It aims to inform patients that we have a choice in where we would like to be treated in the final stages of our disease such as in hospital, home or a hospice.

Your Macmillan Nurse or surgery should have further details on this.


For many people with this diagnosis knowing what benefits you may be entitled to is paramount. The Benefits Enquiry Line (Tel: 0800 88 22 00) or Macmillan is a good source of information. You may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance (it comprises of two components; mobility and care), a blue badge if you have difficulty in walking, exemption from car tax, disabled rail and bus card, etc.

Reading material:

NHS: 'Understanding Secondary Breast Cancer'.

Breast Cancer Care: 'Secondary Breast Cancer'.

Macmillian Cancer Support: 'Understanding Secondary Breast Cancer'.