Question about primary and secondary breast cancer


I hadn’t been aware of secondary breast cancer.

I had a hormone positive, her neg bc, 9mm. Stage 1, grade 2. Clear lymph nodes after surgery. Is it still possible that secondary bc has already started before it was found?

Also, would an mri have been only of my breasts or would it have been the whole body?

I found the feedback very confusing as it was extremely positive for which I’m grateful but I can’t work out how and where secondary bc fits in.

Hello claribee

Thanks for your post asking about how and where secondary breast cancer fits in with the information you have been given from your treatment team.

It sounds like you had a primary breast cancer from the stage you refer to. This is when the cancer has not spread beyond the breast or the lymph nodes under the arm.

A secondary breast cancer is when breast cancer cells spread from the breast to other parts of the body. As your breast cancer has been found at an early stage (stage 1), it is unlikely that it had spread, as it was small and had not gone to the lymph nodes.

The MRI scan you mention is most likely to have scanned just your breasts. Scans of other areas of the body are only usually recommended if there’s a higher chance of it spreading.

You also mention that your breast cancer was hormone positive. When a breast cancer is hormone positive your treatment team will talk to you about having hormone therapy to reduce the risk of the breast cancer coming back. It also reduces the risk of a new breast cancer developing. Do contact your treatment team or breast care nurse if you have questions about your hormone therapy.

We offer a range of free support services that you might be interested in that include online and face to face events. For more details about all of these services, please see the information on the link, or call our free helpline

It’s understandable that you have found your situation confusing so, please do call our helpline if you would like to talk this through or have any further questions. The helpline team have time to listen to your concerns, talk things through and signpost you to more support and information. Your call will be confidential, and the number is free from UK landlines and all mobile networks. The number is 0808 800 6000, (Relay UK -prefix 18001).

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Best wishes


Breast Care Nurse

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