When breast cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, tests are done to check for metastasis (when the cancer spreads to other organs, such as the bones, lungs or liver). Although the cancer starts in the breast, it can be carried to other parts of the body through the lymph fluid and/or the blood. Once breast cancer spreads, prognosis is poorer.
About five percent of U.S. women have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed . Most people with metastases have been treated for breast cancer in the past and that cancer has returned (recurred) and spread. Learn more about breast cancer recurrence.
Shortness of breath, chronic cough, weight loss and bone pain can be symptoms of metastases. Tests must be done to confirm or rule out metastases. The three main tests are:
Positron emission tomography (PET) and other tests for metastases may be done, depending on a person's symptoms and the findings from the three main tests.
The letter “M’ in the TNM breast cancer staging system shows the presence or absence of metastases. Cancer has either spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other areas of the body (M1) or it has not (MO).
Tests for metastases include:
Metastases cannot be assessed
Learn about treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
"I'll do whatever it takes to keep fighting." - Kathleen