(1) Mestastatic Breast Cancer
Breast cancer remains the most feared disease among women. Receiving a diagnosis of stage IV breast cancer is a shock, and it affects you and everyone who loves you.
There are no magic bullets regarding treatment for this stage of disease. There is hope and with more research being completed every year, that hope grows.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote years ago, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift-that’s why it’s called the present". I believe Roosevelt’s quote is an accurate summation of what women are experiencing on their journey with this disease.
There is a very good possibility that you have already been told that you have breast cancer and have undergone treatment for it. You may have had surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and maybe hormonal therapy or targeted biologic therapy and now you are being told that there is a chance that your new symptoms are related to metastatic breast cancer. You are not alone in feeling frightened and scared about hearing this news. Recurrence of breast cancer is the biggest fear for all breast cancer survivors. Though the risk of distant recurrence is highest during the first 2 years after treatment and affects more women with locally advanced disease (stage III) than with stage I or stage II disease, metastatic breast cancer can occur at any point in time after the original diagnosis. The only group that it is considered to not be at risk for metastatic breast cancer is women who had stage 0 or noninvasive breast cancer.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, risk level statistics don’t have the same meaning. Having a small risk of developing metastatic disease doesn’t change the current situation. If you’ve been diagnosed with or told that you might have metastatic breast cancer, it’s serious for you. Every imaginable fear may be rushing through your mind. You may have come to the oncologist’s office with complaints of back pain that you’ve been experiencing for the last 3Â€weeks that won’t subside with over-the counter pain relievers. Maybe you have headaches or some new symptom related to your breathing. Your symptoms may have triggered the doctor to order additional tests to determine if these symptoms are related to your original breast cancer diagnosis. Remember, many people can live for years with metastatic breast cancer. The cancer can be “active” sometimes, then go into remission. Let’s walk through information about metastatic breast cancer together so that you are well informed and can participate in the decision making about your treatment and care.
Chemotherapy - Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells or make them less active. It is a form of systemic treatment.
Hormonal therapy - Treatment that blocks the effects of hormones upon cancers.
Targeted therapy - Cancer treatments that target specific characteristics of cancer cells, such as a protein, an enzyme, or the formation of new blood vessels. Targeted therapies don’t harm normal, healthy cells.
Metastatic breast cancer - Cancer that has spread from the breast to other organ sites such as the liver, lung, bone, or brain.
Locally advanced disease – Stage III breast cancer.
Oncologist - A cancer specialist who helps determine treatment choices