What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?
A Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) diagnosis can be very upsetting. MBC is Stage IV and is breast cancer that has spread to other areas of the body. Breast cancer metastasizes when cancer cells break away from the breast tumor entering the bloodstream where they can then travel to other areas of the body. The frequent sites of breast cancer metastasis (in order) are the bones, lung, liver and brain. Approximately ¼ of breast cancers metastasize to the bone first.
Usually MBC is diagnosed after breast cancer has returned and spread months or even years after diagnosis, yet 10% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed initially with a breast cancer diagnosis.
There have been advances in MBC that help to extend life and women can live longer with MBC. The duration of survival varies and can depend on many factors including type of breast cancer and treatment options available. The quality of life for those with MBC has improved but it is still very difficult.
When breast cancer metastasizes to a different part of the body it is still breast cancer. Many of the treatments used for early stage breast cancer are utilized for MBC. There is currently no treatment that can cure MBC. Treatment can slow or stop the growth of the disease for a period of time. When a treatment stops working, usually there is another method of treatment used, but because MBC is a chronic disease that is controlled by treatment, eventually after using all of the possible treatments available one can run out of options that will continue to work.
What if you are diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer
Women (and less often men) who are diagnosed with MBC often feel alone and isolated because there is so much focus on early detection, when there is a greater change that the cancer will not return. If you have MBC you are not alone. In the US there are over 150,000 women living with MBC. Advocates 4 Breast Cancer believes that MBC must never be overlooked by anyone because it is vital that researchers keep working every day to improve treatments, quality of life and ultimately find a way to cure MBC or at least extend life with quality of life for a very long time.
The challenges that one faces with a MBC diagnosis have so much uncertainty especially because doctors can’t predict survival. Every MBC patient is unique. It is best to understand one’s specific details about their breast cancer to understand the best treatment options that will work best for you. Many living with MBC credit exercise, yoga, healthy nutrition, support, and spirituality as being tremendous help to their quality of life.