Breast cancer cells from the original tumour break down and move to other body parts through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. When this happens, it is known as metastatic breast cancer or stage IV breast cancer. The organs to which breast cancer can most commonly spread include bones, lungs, brain and liver.
Metastatic breast cancer in a different body organ or part is the cancer made up of breast cancer cells, but not from the cells of the organ in which the cancer is present.
Treatment can control and manage metastatic breast cancer for a number of years though cancer may not go away completely.
Metastatic breast cancer can sometimes remain active and then goes into remission at other times.
To manage breast cancer at this stage, many different treatments or a combination of treatments are often used.
An oncologist can try another treatment if one treatment stops working.
In some women, their first breast cancer diagnosis can itself turn out to be metastatic breast cancer.
When breast cancer is detected at this stage, it means it was not detected or diagnosed in the early stage.
It is possible that breast cancer may be detected in another part of the body even after months and years of original diagnosis and treatment.
In approximately 25% to 30% of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, there is a possibility of developing metastatic breast cancer.
Women living with metastatic breast cancer should not think that the situation is hopeless as many women continue to live long and productive lives even in this stage of cancer.