A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis can be difficult to comprehend. Such a diagnosis means that cancer that initially began in the breast has now spread to other parts of the body.
Many women who receive such a diagnosis have beaten breast cancer in the past and might not understand why it has returned and spread to other parts of their bodies. But the threat of recurrence is something all cancer patients must face, and taking steps to understand as much about their disease as possible can prepare people to fight it once again.
The location of metastatic breast cancer will affect how women feel. Understanding the relationship between location and symptoms can help women identify problems they might otherwise write off as natural signs of aging, and that knowledge might compel them to seek treatment that can prolong their lives.

What does location have to do with metastatic breast cancer?
Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer vary depending on where the cancer is located. BreastCancer.org notes that metastatic breast cancer most commonly spreads from the breast to the bones, brain, liver, or lungs. Some symptoms of metastatic breast cancer may be mistaken for natural signs of aging, which might keep women from seeking treatment that could potentially extend their lives by a number of years. The following is a breakdown on the symptoms of metastatic cancer associated with parts of the body where the cancer is most likely to spread.
• Bone: Bones are the first sight of metastasis for more than half of the women who develop metastatic breast cancer. Sudden, severe pain and an inability to move are the most common symptoms that cancer has spread to the bone. Pain in the back or neck; numbness or weakness in an area of the body; or difficulty passing urine or having bowel movements are other symptoms of bone metastasis. Fatigue, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, and/or dehydration, each of which can be indicative of high levels of calcium in the blood due to bone breakdown, are other symptoms of metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the bone.
• Brain: BreastCancer.org notes that between 10 and 15 percent of women with metastatic breast cancer develop brain metastases. Symptoms that affect the brain can include headaches; changes in the senses, such as slurred speech or blurred vision; memory problems; mood or personality changes; seizures; or stroke or “brain attack,” in which the supply of blood to the brain has been cut off.
• Liver: Women only rarely experience symptoms of breast cancer that has spread to the liver. Liver function tests are often how metastatic cancer that has spread to the liver is detected. However, some women do experience symptoms, which can include pain or discomfort in the midsection; fatigue and weakness; weight loss/poor appetite; fever; bloating; swelling the legs; or a yellow tint to the skin or whites of the eyes.
• Lungs: Breast cancer that has spread to the lungs also does not often produce symptoms, and is often detected via imaging studies conducted during treatment follow-up sessions. If symptoms do appear, they may include pain or discomfort in the lung; shortness of breath; wheezing; persistent cough; or coughing up blood and mucus.
When cancer spreads from the breast to other parts of the body, the location of the cancer cells can produce certain symptoms that should not be mistaken for innocuous signs of aging or other illnesses.