Newly Diagnosed or Seeking a Second Opinion
Seeking care from specialists in metastatic breast cancer is important whether you are newly diagnosed or are in the middle of your treatment. As a comprehensive cancer center, we use the latest treatments and can enroll you in clinical trials that are testing new therapies. Our team has helped develop many of the drugs for metastatic breast cancer used today.
We also offer you a wealth of resources to help you cope with your diagnosis and its effect on you and your family. Support groups, medical family therapy, palliative care specialists, and financial counselors can support you every step of the way.
Diagnosing Metastatic Breast Cancer
While it is possible for metastatic breast cancer to be found at your initial diagnosis, it is more common for breast cancer to return years after you’ve completed treatment. In either case, a variety of tests help us identify how extensively cancer has spread. They also provide information on the subtype of breast cancer in the metastases and possibly the underlying genomic changes in the tumor. We use this information to recommend the best treatments for you.
You may undergo several types of imaging tests, such as X-ray, MRI, and PET, CT, or bone scans. They help us identify the secondary site (such as the liver, bones, lung) where breast cancer has spread.
A biopsy removes cell and tissue samples from the secondary site for evaluation under a microscope. This helps us determine if there are any differences between your original and current breast cancer diagnosis.
Additional Lab Tests
Blood work and tissue samples may be studied to determine the subtype of breast cancer. For example, we test for:
- Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that may be responsible for tumor growth. These types of breast cancer are called ER-positive and PR-positive (or hormone receptor-positive). They respond initially to endocrine therapy-based treatments.
- A protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which is found in HER2-positive breast cancer. This aggressive cancer responds well to certain treatments.
When tests for ER/PR and HER2 protein are negative, the cancer is called triple-negative breast cancer. New medications such as immunotherapy are proving promising for some patients with this subtype.
Genomic Molecular Profiling
Blood work and tissue analysis may be performed to identify the genetic makeup of the tumor. These tests can identify vulnerabilities that may be treated with targeted therapies.