NICE clinical guidelines
Issued: February 2009

Advanced breast cancer: Diagnosis and treatment

This is an extract from the guidance. The complete guidance is available at


This guideline updates and replaces the following technology appraisals:

  • 'Guidance on the use of capecitabine for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer' (NICE technology appraisal guidance 62)

  • 'Guidance on the use of vinorelbine for the treatment of advanced breast cancer' (NICE technology appraisal guidance 54)

  • 'Taxanes for the treatment of breast cancer' (NICE technology appraisal guidance 30)

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in England and Wales, with about 40,500 new cases diagnosed[1][2]and 10,900 deaths[1][2] recorded in England and Wales each year. In men breast cancer is rare, with about 260 cases diagnosed[1][2] and 68 deaths[1][2] in England and Wales each year. Of these new cases in women and men, a small proportion are diagnosed in the advanced stages, when the tumour has spread significantly within the breast or to other organs of the body. In addition, there are a significant number of women who have been previously treated with curative intent who subsequently develop either a local recurrence or metastases. Over recent years there have been important developments in the investigation and management of patients with advanced breast cancer, including new chemotherapy, and biological and hormonal agents. There is some evidence of practice variation across the country and of patchy availability of certain treatments and procedures. This clinical guideline helps to address these issues and offers guidance on best practice.

The guideline assumes that prescribers will use a drug's summary of product characteristics to inform their decisions for individual patients.

[1] Office for National Statistics (2008) Cancer statistics registrations: registrations of cancer diagnosed in 2005, England. Series MB1 number 36. London: Office for National Statistics.

[2] Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (2008) Cancer incidence in Wales 1992−2002. Cardiff: Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit.