Secondary breast cancer can be treated but cannot be cured. By raising awareness of the signs and symptoms, Breast Cancer Now are working to ensure that those living with secondary breast cancer receive the most suitable treatment and care.

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held in October every year, charities and organisations around the world shine a light on the stories, symptoms and challenges of breast cancer — and the work being done to promote screening and prevention of the disease, which affects 2.3 million women worldwide.

Watch our interview with Melanie Sturtevant, Associate Director of Policy, Evidence and Influencing at Breast Cancer Now.

Approved by Breast Cancer Now

What is secondary breast cancer?

Secondary breast cancer is when cancer spreads from the breast to other parts of the body, typically bones, the brain, the liver or the lungs.

“It’s also known as metastatic, advanced, or stage 4 breast cancer,” explains Melanie.  “While it can be treated, it can’t be cured. And still, in the UK every year 11,500 people die of secondary breast cancer.”

Melanie explains that because symptoms are non-specific, it can make secondary breast cancer difficult to diagnose.

“There is also still an issue with awareness of those signs and symptoms,” she adds. “We know that only 13% of women who have had primary breast cancer felt they were given enough information about the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer. Nearly a quarter of them had to go to their GP three or more times before they were diagnosed.”

Symptoms of secondary breast cancer can include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Severe headaches
  • Unexpected weight loss

To learn more about cancer treatments, prevention and screening, watch ITN Business’ 2023 programme, ‘Working Together: To Tackle Cancer‘.

Here’s a taster of upcoming programme, Shaping the Future of Cancer Care, for World Cancer Day 2024.