The spread of cancer to lymph nodes is bad

When cancer spreads

Spread of breast cancer: Distant metastases often occur in bones (up to 60% of all metastases), lungs (up to 20%) and liver (around 10%), and less often in the brain.2

How cancer cells spread

Breast cancer cells detach themselves from the tumor cluster in the breast and spread through the body via blood and lymph vessels. Breast cancer spreads to more distant areas of the body (distant metastases) in the blood, in lymph nodes around the affected breast, in the armpit or chest wall via the lymph system. These cells then continue to multiply at the site of their settlement and form metastases.1

In principle, breast cancer can spread to any organ, but some organs have more metastases than others. In breast cancer, these are mainly the bones, lungs, brain and liver. Metastases in internal organs such as the lungs, liver, brain or in the abdomen are also called "Visceral" metastases designated. The cells of the metastases are still breast cancer cells.1

Information about typical complaints that can be caused by metastases can be found here.

Bone metastases: common, usually relatively easy to treat

Breast cancer cells can upset the delicate balance between building bone - by cells called osteoblasts - and breaking down bone - by cells called osteoclasts. The bone-degrading osteoclasts are in a lively "exchange of information" with the tumor cells that have migrated: Although they cannot attack the bone themselves, they release substances that stimulate the osteoclasts and thus bone degradation.3

Cancer cells and bone resorption cells activate each other: a cycle of metastasis growth and excessively increased bone resorption is created, which reduces the stability of the bone.3

Bone metastases can generally be treated with cancer drugs and other therapeutic options.

How are metastases detected?


  1. Albert U-S, et al. Breast cancer patient guide II. The advanced disease, relapse and metastasis. "Guideline program oncology" of the working group of the scientific medical professional societies e. V., the German Cancer Society e. V. and the German Cancer Aid e. V. Berlin, 2011.
  2. Gerber B et al. Recurrent Breast Cancer: Therapy Concepts to Maintain Quality of Life. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2010; 107: 85-91.
  3. Thalmann GN et al. Bone Metastases - Coincidental or Predetermined? Unipress 2004; 120: 34-36.