October 13th is recognized as the official Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The purpose of this awareness day is to recognize that MORE research is needed to find a cure. Only about 5% of overall breast cancer research in the U.S. goes to metastatic breast cancer research.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day is Observed on October 13
Many patients who undergo treatment may never have cancer again. A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is different. This diagnosis means the patient will actively deal with breast cancer for the rest of the patient’s life.
What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?
MBC, also known as Stage IV, is cancer that spreads outside of breast to other organs. These include bones, liver, lung or brain. This process is called metastasis. Breast cancer that spreads to another organ, such as bones, lung, or liver, is still breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer does not become bone cancer, liver cancer or lung cancer. Under a microscope, the tumor cells look and act like breast cancer. These cells are treated as breast cancer. Estimates suggest that 20-30% of patients with an early stage cancer will have their cancer return as metastatic. This is true even if they were told their early stage cancer was “cured.” Another 8% of new breast cancer cases are found to be metastatic at their initial diagnosis.
Metastatic breast cancer is treatable but not curable. Treatment is lifelong and focuses on preventing further spread of the disease and managing symptoms. The goal is for patients to live a good quality of life for as long as possible.
With metastatic breast cancer, treatment goals are to shrink or weaken the cancer, manage symptoms and side effects and prevent the cancer from spreading. Changes in treatment are made as the cancer grows or spreads to new places in the body. Treatment focus is about progression, the growth of tumors or spread of cancer and regression. Treatment focus changes as tumors increase or decrease in size. When one treatment stops working, other options may be available to the patient.
Treatment for metastatic breast cancer has two main goals. First, to control the cancer for as long as possible. Second, to maintain the highest quality of life possible.
Stable Disease (NED)
All told, at stage IV it is difficult to fully remove cancer with surgery or medicine because new tumors may appear over time. In addition, cells may stop responding to different treatments. While metastatic breast cancer is not considered curable, it is possible to experience periods where tests show no evidence of disease. This is often called NED. While reaching NED may not always be possible, it is likely patients will have periods when the cancer does not grow. This is known as stable disease.
Why Does Metastatic Breast Cancer Occur?
Being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer can happen to anyone, at any time. Even stage I cancer can become metastatic. Years after completing treatment, someone with Stage I cancer may learn the cancer is back and is now metastatic. The stages are meant only to predict risk of recurrence.
Metastatic breast cancer’S main treatment goal is to choose the treatment path that will eliminate tumors and outlying cancer cells in the most effective way. Another goal is quality of life. This allows the patient to continue living the way they want to live.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Statistics
All in all, approximately 40,000 die of breast cancer each year. This number is remained essentially unchanged over the last twenty years. All deaths from breast cancer are caused by metastatic breast cancer. Men do get breast cancer and they are often initially misdiagnosed. They represent about 1% of the new cases of breast cancer and 1% of the deaths from metastatic breast cancer.
(Content: mbcn.org Image: sandbox.ryot.org)
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