Living with secondary breast cancer

Living with secondary breast cancer can be very difficult. It is important to look after yourself and get support.

Coping with secondary breast cancer

Coping with secondary breast cancer is both physically and emotionally demanding.

But many women are now living longer and better lives with treatment. There may be long periods in between treatments when the cancer is under control. This means that can you can get on with living your day-to-day life. It is important to take care of yourself and get support.

Taking care of yourself

Get enough rest

When you are coping with symptoms or recovering from treatments, you use up more energy. This means that it is important to get enough rest. Try to:

  • get a good night’s sleep
  • ask family and friends to help with things around the house and the shopping
  • pace yourself and save energy for the things you want to do.

We have helpful tips on managing fatigue.

Keep physically active

If you can, take regular, short walks. This will:

  • give you more energy
  • reduce stress
  • help you sleep better.

Try to slowly increase the amount you do. But be careful not to overdo it. Ask your cancer doctor or nurse for advice about the type and amount of physical activity that is right for you.

We have more information on keeping active.

Eat healthily

Eating healthily can improve your general health and you will feel better and have more energy.

Even if you have lost your appetite, try to keep eating well and have regular snacks. There are different supplement drinks to help make sure you get enough calories and nutrients. Some of these are available on prescription.

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse can refer you to a dietitian if you need more advice.

Emotional support

You are likely to have different feelings to cope with, as well as managing any symptoms and your treatment.

You may have children and not know what or how much to tell them about the cancer

You may also be worried about practical issues, such as work or finances.

It is important to get the support you need during treatment. You can get support from:

  • your healthcare team
  • your partner, if you have one
  • family
  • friends
  • support groups.

Try to be open about how you are feeling. Tell your cancer doctor or nurse about if you think you may be depressed or are very anxious. They can support you or advise you on getting more help.


Some women find it helpful to talk to someone experienced in helping people with cancer with their emotional problems. This may be a counsellor or psychologist. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse can usually arrange this.

Support groups

Self-help or support groups offer a chance to talk to other people who may be in a similar situation and facing the same challenges as you. You can call us on 0808 808 00 00 or find a cancer support group in your area.

Online support

Many people now get support through the internet. There are online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people affected by cancer. You can use these to ask questions and share your experience.

Our Online Community is a social networking site where you can talk to people in our forums, blog your journey, make friends and join support groups.

Breast cancer is less common in younger women. If you are diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at a young age, then coping with uncertainty about your future can be very hard. Talking with other younger women in a similar situation may help you to feel less isolated.

Breast Cancer Now have different services specifically for women under the age of 45. This includes events and a private Facebook page where you talk to other women going through the same thing.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our secondary breast cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Pathways Advanced Breast Cancer, updated 2017 (accessed November 2017).

    F Cardoso et al 3rd ESO–ESMO. International Consensus Guidelines for Advanced Breast Cancer. (ABC 3) 2016.

    Bourke M et al Effective Treatment of Intractable Cutaneous Metastases of Breast Cancer with Electrochemotherapy: Ten-year Audit of Single Centre Experience. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment January 2017, Volume 161, Issue 2, pp 289–297.


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors; Dr Russell Burcombe, Consultant Clinical Oncologist; Professor Mike Dixon, Professor of Surgery & Consultant Surgeon; and Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.