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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 breast cancer has spread to another part of the body. This includes the liver, lung or bones. It doesn't include breast cancers that are affecting the lymph glands under the arm.

Sometimes cancer is advanced when it is first diagnosed. Or 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 anywhere but most commonly goes 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. And it is different to early breast cancer which may be affecting just the breast, or the breast and your lymph nodes under your arm.

How you might feel

Finding out that you can’t be cured is distressing and can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious. It's normal to not be able to think about anything else.

Lots of information and support is available to you, 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 doctor or nurse 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: 
    05 Dec 2017
    • Cancer and its management (7th Edition)
      Tobias and Hochhauser
      ​Wiley Blackwell, 2015

    • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (8th edition)
      American Joint Committee on Cancer
      Springer, 2016

    Information and help