Breast Cancer - Metastatic: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the changes and medical problems that can be a sign of metastatic breast cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the symptoms and signs of metastatic breast cancer?

The symptoms and signs that people with metastatic breast cancer may experience depend on where and how much the cancer has spread. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, people with metastatic breast cancer do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. Or, often the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not cancer.

The following signs or symptoms should be discussed with a doctor.

Bone metastasis symptoms

  • Bone, back, neck, or joint pain

  • Bone fractures

  • Swelling

Brain metastasis symptoms

  • Headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Seizures

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Vision changes, such as double vision or loss of vision

  • Personality changes

  • Loss of balance

Lung metastasis symptoms

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Constant dry cough

Liver metastasis symptoms

  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, called jaundice

  • Itchy skin or rash

  • Pain or swelling in the belly

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

Other symptoms and signs of metastasis

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fatigue

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will try to understand what is causing your symptom(s). They may do an exam and order tests to understand the cause of the problem, which is called a diagnosis.

If the doctor diagnoses metastatic breast cancer, relieving symptoms remains an important part of care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative and supportive care," which is not the same as hospice care given at the end of life. You can receive palliative and supportive care at any time during cancer treatment. This type of care focuses on managing symptoms and supporting people who face serious illnesses, such as cancer. Learn more in this guide’s section on Coping with Treatment.

Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.