The first in-depth study of people with secondary breast cancer has found that current care is inadequate.

The study which was published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care followed the experiences of 10 women with secondary breast cancer aged between 40 and 78. The study was part of a previously published survey of 235 women by Dr Elizabeth Reed for Breast Cancer Care.

Secondary breast cancer also sometimes called advanced or metastatic breast cancer can be controlled sometimes for many years but cannot be cured.

What did the study find?

The study found that the women’s lives were dominated by trying to manage their condition and treatment. While people with secondary breast cancer are living longer thanks to better treatments their problems are becoming more complex.

The women were unsure about how to enter the healthcare system again compared to the clear ‘pathway’ of care they followed when diagnosed with primary breast cancer.

Even once they were seen by healthcare professionals there was no system in place to ensure they received appropriate care and support.

Spotlight on Secondary Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Care is campaigning to change this situation through its Spotlight on Secondary Breast Cancer campaign.

Dr Liz Reed co- author of the study commented:

‘We found very few of the women had any access to formal support. There have been great strides in clinical treatment but with little or no support these patients are faced with a constant cycle of illness treatment and recovery and particularly for those with more aggressive disease there was little let-up.’

Liz Carroll Breast Cancer Care’s Head of Policy and Campaigns said:

‘We know that people living with secondary breast cancer have very specific needs that aren’t being met. This study importantly highlights how progress in treatment is simply failing to keep pace with what patients need. That’s why our Spotlight campaign is calling for named support by specially trained professionals for each and every person diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.’

Our secondary breast cancer services

Living with Secondary Breast Cancer gives people opportunity to meet others living with a secondary diagnosis and to get relevant information and support.

To find out more about Living with Secondary Breast Cancer contact the team on 0345 077 1893 or email them at

Our Secondary resource pack is for anyone who has diagnosis of secondary breast cancer. It may also be useful for family friends or carers. You can order or download a copy on our website or call our Helpline on 0808 800 6000.