Diagnosis when breast cancer has spread

A number of tests are used to diagnose breast cancer that has spread outside the breast area to other parts of the body.

Test results will be summarised in a pathology report and in imaging reports. The treating doctor can explain what the test results mean and whether other tests will be needed in future.  Some women find it helpful to keep a copy of their reports so that they can refer to them later.

The words used in the pathology report to describe breast cancer that has spread outside the breast area will depend on the parts of the body affected.

  • Locally advanced breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to areas near the breast. The stages used to describe locally advanced breast cancer are Stage IIB (>5cm) and Stage III.
  • Secondary breast cancer (also called metastatic breast cancer) is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. The stage used to describe secondary or metastatic breast cancer is Stage IV.

Find out more about: