Metastatic breast cancer is the condition where cancer spreads to the other parts of your body. Usually, the disorder affects the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. As the signs and symptoms of metastatic breast cancer can greatly vary depending upon where it has spread, it is important to notice all the changes in your health condition to diagnose and treat it as early as possible.


If your breast cancer has spread to your bones, you may experience pain in the joints, back, or hip. It can also lead bone fractures or an increase in the calcium level in your blood. You may also feel numbness in one of your arms or legs.

It the condition has affected your liver, you may feel pain and inflammation in the abdomen, loss of appetite, confusion, and tiredness. Sometimes, it may even lead to yellowing of the skin or eyes as seen in jaundice. In case your breast cancer has extended to your lungs, you may experience signs like shortness of breath, fatigue, and exhaustion.

If metastatic breast cancer has affected your brain, you may have frequent headaches, seizures, drowsiness, and changes in vision or hearing. In some cases, it may even cause a lack of sensation in any specific part of your body, and you may be unable to feel or move it.


Your doctor at the nearest Los Angeles oncology clinic may recommend a few tests to confirm that it is metastatic breast cancer and not any other condition. This is important to plan the course of treatment to manage the symptoms of the disorder. Below are some of the common tests that help to diagnose metastatic breast cancer.

  • PET scan: This imaging test involves getting a radioactive sugar injected into your blood, which will be used up by cancer cells quickly. Then a scan will be done to see the areas where the sugar was metabolized and concentrated.
  • Bone scan: This diagnostic test involves putting a radioactive tracer into your blood. This will highlight the “hot spots” in your bones during the scan to signal signs of cancer.
  • CT scan: This test involves undergoing special X-rays for a detailed analysis of your body. Sometimes, your doctor may recommend PET-CT scan as well to diagnose the effects of breast cancer on your other body parts.
  • MRI scan: This imaging test involves using strong magnets to obtain a detailed picture of your organs and structures to where breast cancer may have spread. MRI scan is especially useful to diagnose brain and bone metastases.
  • Ultrasound scan: This diagnostic test involves using sound waves to check the growth of tumors in your body. Ultrasound scan is especially used to diagnose liver metastases as well as analyze the extent to which cancer has affected other parts of your abdomen.

After examining the results from the above tests, your doctor at your low-income women’s health clinic may recommend a few more lab tests and biopsy to confirm the findings. This will help to confirm whether they are breast cancer cells or if it is any other form of cancer.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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