Take a moment to
process everything and reflect

Surrounding yourself with a good support group and trying to learn as much as you can in order to better understand your secondary breast cancer can be helpful. A secondary breast cancer diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming.

Everybody handles their diagnosis differently and it is important to remember there is no right or wrong way to handle the news. Partners, friends and family might share some of these feelings too, so it can be helpful to discuss it with them when you feel ready.

There is a vast amount of support available which your healthcare professionals can arrange for you, including counselling, social work, meetings with a psychologist and more.

Doctor and woman
Every body is different

Your diagnosis is unique

By gaining a better understanding of your prognosis, stage and type of cancer, you can keep up to date with what your options are and how they aim to help you on your treatment journey.

Every individual case of secondary breast cancer is unique, which means treatments and side effects can vary greatly between people. Some patients find it helps to fully understand their condition in order to understand why they are receiving certain treatments.

Understanding your diagnosis

The role of biomarkers

Several things affect the course (prognosis) of breast cancer, such as the stage of breast cancer and how fast it is growing.1 If the breast cancer is advanced, the treatment options and goals are different than if it were in an early stage.2 

Treatment for secondary breast cancer focuses on slowing the growth or spread of cancer.3 It can help reduce the symptoms that get in the way of your daily routine, so you are able to do the things you enjoy. Treatment can also prolong your life.

Biomarker testing may help your healthcare team determine the appropriate treatment plan for your type of cancer.3

Doctor greeting woman
Take all the time you need

Tips and support for speaking
to friends and family

Something as simple as talking about your SBC diagnosis can be a great emotional help. At time, you might feel like you don’t know what to say or how to say it. Other times you may not want to talk about it at all. Whether or not you choose to speak about what you are going through, you may find it helpful to surround yourself with a support group of patients willing to listen when you feel ready.

How can I tell my friends and family?

Breaking the news to your friends and family can lead to a difficult and emotional conversation. Doing so when you feel ready and in a way that suits you may be of help.

Below are a few recommendations:

  • Let the person you are sharing your diagnosis with know you would like to have a focused conversation.
  • Switching off all devices (mobile phones, televisions) may help everybody involved remain focused.
  • Speak at your own pace and take your time.

Download our guide on talking to others to read some more in-depth information.

Doctor discussing notes
Healthcare standards

What are the NICE Guidelines
and how do they work?

The NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) commissioning and clinical guidelines are recommendations for health and social care professionals who practice in England. They provide them with guidance on how to manage specific health conditions.

The recommendations are based on the best available evidence and take into account the cost-effectiveness of treatments. These guidelines are also used by other healthcare decision-makers such as health service managers and those who commission NHS services. ­ While NICE guidelines are helpful when it comes to treatment decision-making, they are not prescriptive. As such, your healthcare professional may prescribe you a treatment that differs from what is recommended within the NICE guidance if, based on their professional judgement, they consider another treatment would be more suitable for you.4

Never hesitate to ask

Introduction to more advanced topics

Throughout your appointments and treatments, you may come across some medical language which can sometimes be confusing and difficult to understand.

If there is anything you have not understood throughout your secondary breast cancer journey, you may want to share this with your healthcare professional. Cancer and its treatments can be complex, and your healthcare team is there to help you have a better understanding of these. Taking notes home with you to discuss with your support group can be helpful too.

You can read through our more in-depth clinical glossary here to help you on your treatment journey.

Side effects of treatments

The treatment of secondary breast cancer can come with side effects. These will differ in severity and you might experience different types of side effects depending on the treatment you receive.

We recommend getting as much information as possible from your healthcare team so you know what to expect from particular treatments and gain an understanding of why the side effects might occur. You can discuss potential side effects with your doctor when talking about treatments and how they might affect your quality of life. Having clarity on the impacts a treatment could have on your health and lifestyle will allow you to, if you wish to do so, actively participate in your treatment’s decision-making alongside your healthcare team.


  1. American Joint Committee on Cancer. What is cancer staging? Available online at: https://cancerstaging.org/references-tools/Pages/What-is-Cancer-Staging.aspx [Last accessed: September 2021]
  2. American Cancer Society. Understanding advanced cancer, metastatic cancer, and bone metastasis. Available online at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types.html [Last accessed: September 2021]
  3. National Comprehensive Cancer Network NCCN®. NCCN Guidelines for Patients®: Breast Cancer, Metastatic. Available online at: https://www.nccn.org/patients/guidelines/content/PDF/stage_iv_breast-patient.pdf [Last accessed: September 2021]
  4. NICE Guidelines. How NICE clinical guidelines are developed: an overview for stakeholders, the public and the NHS. Available online at: https://www.nice.org.uk/process/pmg6/resources/how-nice-clinical-guidelines-are-developed-an-overview-for-stakeholders-the-public-and-the-nhs-2549708893/chapter/nice-clinical-guidelines [Last accessed: September 2021]

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You know you best

Make your next appointment count

Your healthcare team is your best resource throughout your treatment. Talk openly and often with them about your doubts, questions and concerns. It might make you feel more in control if you take some time to plan for your appointment. Making notes before, during and after can help you retain information and make the most of your visits. We have developed a guide to support you in having these conversations with some tips to help you get the information you need.

Download your Moments That Count appointment guide.

Moments That Count has been developed and funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited. It has been created in collaboration with secondary breast cancer patients whose knowledge and insights have informed the content and direction for the campaign.

This website is part of a programme that is funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited. Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited is a private limited liability company registered in England and Wales under number 119006. Registered office 2nd Floor, The WestWorks Building, White City Place, 195 Wood Lane, London, W12 7FQ. Use of this website is governed by our Terms of Use and the Cookies and Privacy Policy.

Reporting side-effects

If you get side effects with any medication you are taking, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse.This includes any possible side effects not listed in the information leaflet that comes in the pack. You can report side effects via the Yellow Card Scheme at https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/. By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of your medication.

©2022 Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd - UK | September 2022 | 124182-1 | This site is intended for an audience in the UK.