"While there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, some individuals are able to live longer with the disease. However, metastatic breast cancer remains a clinical challenge in the oncology community. October 13 places emphasis on the disease stressing the need for new, targeted treatments that will help prolong life." - William Gradishar, MD, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
13 Facts Everyone Should Know about Metastatic Breast Cancer ~ reprinted from the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. mbcn.org
1. No one dies from breast cancer that remains in the breast. The lump itself is not what kills. The metastasis of cancerous cells to a vital organ is what kills.
2. Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to different parts of the body, typically the bones, liver, lungs and brain. [ILC (invasive lobular carcinoma) is atypical in where it will metastasize first, e.g., lymphatic system, peritoneum, uterus]
3. An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
4. Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is lifelong and focuses on control and quality of life vs. curative intent. (“Treatable but unbeatable.”)
5. About 6% to 10% of people are Stage IV from their initial diagnosis.
6. Early detection is not a cure. Metastatic breast cancer can occur ANY time after a person’s original diagnosis, EVEN if the patient was initially Stage 0, I, II or III and DESPITE getting annual checkups and annual mammograms.
7. Between 20% to 30% of people initially diagnosed with regional stage disease WILL develop metastatic breast cancer.
8. Young people DO get metastatic breast cancer.
|X-ray of a woman with metastatic breast cancer|
in her bones
9. There are many different kinds of metastatic breast cancer.
10. Treatment choices for MBC are guided by hormone (ER/PR) and HER2 receptor status, location and extent of metastasis (visceral vs. nonvisceral), previous treatment and other factors.
11. Metastatic breast cancer isn’t an automatic death sentence. Although most people will ultimately die of
their disease, some can live long and productive lives.
12. There are no hard and fast prognostic statistics for metastatic breast cancer. Everyone’s situation is unique, but according to the American Cancer Society, the 5 year survival rate for stage IV is around 20%. (Ahhh...this is where radiation onc got her figures when she played out for me her interpretation of the grim reaper. She gave me the cookie-cutter stats!)
13. October 13 is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. To learn more about it as well as resources specifically for people with metastatic breast cancer see www. mbcn.org.