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About advanced cancer

Find out about advanced breast cancer and how it might affect you.

Advanced breast cancer means that a cancer that began in the breast has spread to another part of the body, such as the liver or bones. Advanced cancer can also be called secondary cancer.

Unfortunately advanced cancer can’t usually be cured. But treatment can control it, relieve symptoms, and give you a good quality of life for a while.

Sometimes cancer is advanced when it is first diagnosed. But sometimes the cancer has come back and spread after treatment for the original cancer.

Cancers that have spread to another part of the body are called:

  • secondary cancer
  • metastases
  • metastatic cancer

Where breast cancer spreads

Breast cancer can spread to the:

  • liver
  • lungs
  • lymph nodes
  • brain
  • bones

Locally advanced cancer

Locally advanced cancer means that the cancer has spread into the tissues around the breast. It hasn’t spread to other organs. This is different to an advanced cancer. 

How you might feel

Finding out that you have an advanced cancer can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious and it’s normal to not be able to think about anything else.

Lots of information and support is available to you and your family and friends. It can help to find out more about your cancer and the treatments you might have. Many people find that knowing more about their situation can make it easier to cope.

    Talk to your specialist to understand:

    • what your diagnosis means
    • what is likely to happen
    • what treatment is available
    • how treatment can help you


    Many people want to know what the outlook is and how their cancer will develop. This is different for each person. Your cancer specialist has all the information about you and your cancer. They're the best person to discuss this with.

    You can also talk to your specialist nurse.

    For information and support, you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on 0808 800 4040, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
    Last reviewed: 
    07 Aug 2014
    • Cancer and its management (7th Edition)
      Tobias and Hochhauser
      ​Wiley Blackwell, 2015

    • TNM Staging Charts
      Rubin and Hansen
      Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2009.

    Information and help

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    About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.