Secondary breast cancer

Secondary breast cancer is cancer which firstly started growing in the breast and has moved or spread to another parts of the body. You may hear the word metastases or metastatic breast cancer, this is just another name for secondary breast cancer.

The most common places that breast cancer spreads to are the bones, the liver, the lungs or the brain. Secondary breast cancer can also affect the lymph nodes also called lymph glands. The glands most commonly affected are those in the underarm also called the axilla, the neck, or the chest area.

Every patient is considered as an individual and will be fully assessed and their treatment planned according to which areas of the body where the disease has affected. The aim of treatment is control of disease and to maintain a good quality of life. There are many treatments available and women can be having treatment for many years, remaining active and well. Although we refer to women, men can also have secondary breast cancer and have similar treatments.


These vary according to the part of the body affected. For example, if secondary breast cancer is in the bones of the spine, there may be some back pain. There are some general symptoms which some women may have, these include feeling more tired than normal, general unwell feeling and loss of appetite. It is important to remember that these general symptoms may be related to simple causes, such as colds or flu or be caused by the side effect of cancer treatments. It is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor.

Types of secondary breast cancer

Secondary breast cancer is usually considered according to the part of the body which is affected. The three most common areas are:


Secondary breast cancer publications

We have produced a booklet called Understanding Secondary Breast Cancer, which is available to download from our Publications page. We have produced factsheets for secondary bone cancer, secondary liver cancer and secondary lung cancer, each of which can also be downloaded from our Publications page

Action Breast Cancer

Action Breast Cancer is a national programme established by the Irish Cancer Society to provide breast cancer information and support and to fund breast cancer research. Its services are free, confidential and accessible. For more informatio please visit our Action Breast Cancer section.

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm