Oct 13th is the one day during Breast Cancer Awareness month that acknowledges Metastatic Breast Cancer. It’s time to flip it the other way around. The awareness campaign has been a success. Everyone is aware. What comes to mind when you see this ribbon? My guess is that everyone knows that this pink ribbon is the breast cancer ribbon.
Now let me ask you what comes to mind when you see this ribbon? Some of you may know that this ribbon symbolizes Metastatic Breast Cancer. But how much do you really know about MBC? Here are some facts taken from The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. For the full list of facts and to learn more, click HERE.
- What is Metastatic Breast Cancer? (pronounced as Met-a-STA-tic) MBC also known as Stage IV is cancer that has spread outside of the breast to other organs such as bones, liver, lung or brain. This process is called metastasis. (pronounced as Me-TAS-ta-sis)
- What happens when breast cancer spreads?
Breast cancer that spreads to another organ, such as bones, lung, or liver, is still breast cancer and does not become bone cancer or liver cancer or lung cancer. Under a microscope, the tumor cells will still look and act like breast cancer and will be treated as breast cancer.
- Who gets metastatic breast cancer? No one brings metastatic disease on themselves. The sad truth is that anyone who has had an earlier stage of breast cancer can experience a metastatic recurrence and some women have metastatic disease on their initial diagnosis of cancer–despite mammograms and early detection!
- Why does breast cancer metastasize? (pronounced as Me-TAS-ta-size)
Researchers at this time can’t explain why metastatic disease occurs, but they’re working on finding answers. Early detection is a detection tool, but it does not a cure or prevent an early cancer from coming back in the future as metastatic disease.
- What are the statistics on incidence of metastatic breast cancer?
There are estimates that 20-30% of patients with an early stage cancer will have their cancer return as metastatic, even if they were told their early stage cancer had been “cured.” Another 8% of new breast cancer cases are found to be metastatic at their initial diagnosis.
- What is the main difference between early stage breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer?
Metastatic Breast Cancer (mbc) is treatable but no longer 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.
- How is metastatic breast cancer treated?
Depending primarily on the kind or subtype of mbc, patients may be on either targeted therapies or systemic chemotherapy. Radiation and surgery are also sometimes used.
- What are the different kinds (subtypes) of metastatic breast cancer?
Subtypes for early stage and metastatic breast cancer are the same: An estimated 65% of patients have Hormonal (estrogen or progesterone driven), also called ER+/PR+; 20% have Her2+(fueled by a protein identified as Her2 neu) and 15% have Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC- which does not have any of the 3 above known biomarkers: ER. PR or HER2). These numbers are approximate, because some people have more than one subtype ( HER2+ and ER+) or their subtype may change over time.
- How many women and men die of breast cancer each year?
Approximately 40,000 die of breast cancer each year—a number that essentially is unchanged over the last 20 years. All deaths from breast cancer are caused by metastatic breast cancer.
- How many people are living with mbc in the US?
Although the National Cancer Institute collects statistics of patients who have an initial diagnosis of mbc, the NCI does not count metastatic breast cancer recurrences. Studies estimate that there are over 155,000 women and men living with metastatic breast cancer in the US–and doing our best to live well!
- Is metastatic breast cancer a chronic disease?
Not yet, but that is an important goal. As researchers identify more and better treatments, MBC could become a chronic disease like diabetes or HIV/AIDS, where patients can be stable on medications for 20 or more years.
- How much is spent on research funding for metastatic breast cancer?
Several years ago, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance did a study that found that of all research grants, funded by major public and private sources from 2006-2013, only 7% of funds studied metastatic breast cancer, even though metastasis is what causes breast cancer to become a deadly disease.
- What is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day?
October 13 was sent aside by unanimous House and Senate resolutions in 2009, establishing that one day in October should recognize and bring awareness to metastatic breast cancer. One day is not enough but it’s a start for year round awareness of what mbc is and why it’s important for all of us.
So, what do I hope you gain from reading this post? My goal is to encourage you to look deeper. Look beyond awareness of breast cancer to more research and education for Stage 4 breast cancer. It’s time to move beyond pink ribbons and awareness and the inaccurate information that early detection guarantees a lifelong cure for everyone. This is not the case for too many women that I know. It’s time to focus more funding on MBC. I have hope for a cure.