The purpose of this study was to delineate the key emotional concerns of women newly diagnosed with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer. Sixty-six women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer within the previous 6 months, receiving treatment at the Medical Oncology Departments of two metropolitan teaching hospitals, completed measures of HADS, IES, CARES-SF and Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale, and participated in a semistructured interview. There were high levels of psychological morbidity, 56.7% of women younger than 55 years qualifying as 'cases' on the HADS, compared with 34.5% of women aged over 55 years. The total HADS score was significantly correlated with the Global and Physical Subscales of the MSAS and CARES. Women younger than 55 years had significantly higher levels of intrusive and avoidant symptoms than women over 55 years. Women also reported high numbers of physical symptoms. Key themes which emerged during the interviews were: difficulties in communicating with doctors, perceived delay in diagnosis, the emotional impact, concerns about the family, feelings about why the cancer developed, other life stress and trauma, and use of non-prescribed treatments.