What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer?

"Metastatic breast cancer" refers to cancer that originally developed in a breast but has spread to other parts of the body. While this term is most frequently used when talking about cancer that has spread to faraway organs, it can also refer to cancer that has spread to nearby tissues and lymph nodes.

How does breast cancer spread?

Cancerous cells reproduce at a much faster rate than healthy cells and do not self-destruct at the end of their normal lifespan. This can allow abnormal cells to accumulate in breast tissue.

As these cells continue to reproduce, they can gradually invade surrounding healthy tissues, including lymph nodes. Because the lymphatic system is a network of vessels that extends throughout the entire body, breast cancer cells that reach lymph nodes can travel to distant locations.

One thing to keep in mind is that metastatic breast cancer is always considered breast cancer – no matter where else it spreads. Cancerous cells keep their original characteristics when they metastasize, and this can impact decisions regarding the treatment approach.

Treatment for metastatic breast cancer

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer a variety of treatments for metastatic breast cancer. We take into consideration a myriad of factors – including the type, stage and cellular makeup of a patient’s cancer – when making individualized recommendations. While targeted therapies are not always recommended for metastatic breast cancer, we offer a number of highly advanced systemic treatments, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, that can destroy cancerous cells throughout the entire body. We also have an active clinical trials program that allows patients to access the latest therapies as soon as those options become available.

For more information about metastatic breast cancer, you can talk with one of our experienced oncologists specializing in breast cancer. Call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online (no referral is needed) to request an appointment with our breast cancer team.