Surgery for metastatic breast cancer


Surgery is not used routinely in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer but may be important for some women.

Metastatic breast cancer and breast surgery

If metastatic breast cancer is a woman’s first diagnosis of breast cancer, a breast biopsy will usually be done to confirm the diagnosis and find out what receptors are on the breast cancer cells.

Metastatic breast cancer and bone surgery

If metastatic breast cancer has spread to the bone, surgery can be used to:

  • prevent or treat a fracture
  • replace a joint that has been damaged by cancer
  • remove cancer in or around the spine that is putting pressure on the spinal cord.

Surgery to the bone is often followed by radiotherapy.

Metastatic breast cancer and lung surgery

If metastatic breast cancer has spread to the lungs, surgery can be used to:

  • remove fluid from the pleural cavity
  • treat cancer in the pleura that is not being controlled by other cancer therapies.

Metastatic breast cancer and brain surgery

If metastatic breast cancer has spread to the brain, surgery may be used to remove the cancer. This is usually only done if the cancer is small and in one area of the brain. Surgery to remove cancer from one area of the brain is usually followed by radiotherapy.

Surgery may also be used to drain fluid from the brain.

Metastatic breast cancer and liver surgery

Surgery to treat metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the liver is rare and is usually only carried out if only one discrete area of the liver is affected.

Other reasons for surgery for metastatic breast cancer

Surgery may be used to treat other symptoms of metastatic breast cancer. These include:

  • cancer that has grown through the skin
  • cancer that has blocked the bowel
  • cancer that is pressing on nerves in the body causing nerve pain.