This page is about signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer, which is when breast cancer has spread to another part of the body.

Looking for information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

General symptoms

Many symptoms of secondary breast cancer are similar to those of other conditions, and it’s difficult to list them all.

Some general symptoms that breast cancer may have spread include:

  • feeling constantly tired
  • constant nausea (feeling sick)
  • unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite

Download a quick guide to the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer.

Signs that breast cancer has spread to the bones

The main symptoms of secondary breast cancer in the bone include:

  • pain in your bones, which may get worse when lying down
  • bone fractures (breaks)

Signs that breast cancer has spread to the lungs

Symptoms of secondary breast cancer in the lungs include:

  • breathlessness
  • a cough that doesn’t go away
  • pain or tightness in the chest that doesn’t go away

Signs that breast cancer has spread to the liver

Symptoms of secondary breast cancer in the liver include:

  • pain
  • hiccups
  • a build-up of fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
  • a general feeling of being unwell
  • itching and jaundice

Signs that breast cancer has spread to the brain

Symptoms of secondary breast cancer in the brain include:

  • headache
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting (being sick)
  • weakness or feeling numb down one side of the body
  • unsteadiness or loss of balance
  • seizures (fits)
  • difficulty with speech
  • problems with vision
  • changes in behaviour
  • confusion
  • memory problems

Signs that breast cancer has spread to the skin

Symptoms of secondary breast cancer in the skin include:

  • a change in the colour of the skin
  • a persistent rash
  • a firm, painless nodule (small lump) or multiple nodules of different sizes
  • lymphoedema (swelling of the arm, hand or breast area)
  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • odour (smell)

Reporting symptoms

It’s important to talk to your GP or breast care nurse if you have any symptoms that are:

  • new
  • don’t have an obvious cause
  • don’t go away

Worried about breast cancer spreading?

It’s natural to worry about breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

While it’s important to get any new and persistent symptoms checked, remember that aches and pains in the bones can be due to ageing, arthritis or side effects of treatment for primary breast cancer. Breathlessness and a cough can be symptoms of a cold or flu-type illness. And many people experience tiredness and loss of appetite after cancer treatment.

Whatever your worry or concern, our free Helpline is here to offer support and answer your questions. Call 0808 800 6000.

Last reviewed: May 2018
Next planned review begins 2020

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