Metastatic breast cancer is another term for stage IV breast cancer. It means the cancer has spread to another part of the body, most often the liver, brain, bones, or lungs. This is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. There are over 150,000 women in the United States alone who have metastatic breast cancer, but it’s important to note that it can happen to men, as well.
While metastatic cancer isn’t curable, it is treatable. There are many different treatments available to help slow down the progression of this cancer and help relieve some of the symptoms associated with it, particularly the pain.
Where Can Breast Cancer Spread?
Any cancer that has spread to other areas of the body is referred to by doctors as metastatic. In most cases, the cancer will spread into the bones, lungs, liver, and brain, but it can take years for this to happen. WebMD explains that the cancer is often spread either through the lymph system or bloodstream. The cancer enters the lymph nodes (in this case, axillary lymph nodes, which are located in the armpits), from there it travels into the lymphatic system, a collection of lymph nodes and vessels that are linked to the immune system.
There are tests available for doctors to use to help determine if and where the breast cancer has spread. These tests help your doctor determine what the plan of treatment will be. Even when breast cancer has spread to other areas of the body, such as the lungs, it will still be treated as breast cancer and not for example, lung cancer.