Ninety percent of breast cancer deaths are a direct result of Metastatic Disease (MBC or Stage IV). MBC is not a specific type of breast cancer but rather the most advanced stage. Thirty percent of those diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will go on to be diagnosed with MBC; that is, one in three early stage survivors will become terminal.
Many people do not realize that breast cancer itself does not become deadly until it spreads to other parts of the body. 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.
We need to change the breast cancer conversation to include MBC. Of the 3.5 million U.S. people living with a history of breast cancer (all stages), an estimated 155,000 have Stage IV breast cancer. This means when the average person thinks about breast cancer, they are not thinking about people with MBC. They are thinking about family and friends who had early stage disease, were treated and, to their knowledge, are fine. This is certainly understandable but an ongoing challenge and one that must be addressed to make any meaningful progress in terms of education, awareness and scientific progress, especially research, which is paramount to ending MBC.
Early detection does not guarantee a lifetime cure, and treating early stage breast cancer does not mean the person will never have breast cancer again. MBC can occur five, 10 or 15-plus years after a person's original diagnosis and successful treatment.
LISA ANN WHEELER
Field coordinator, lead breast cancer
State of South Carolina
National Breast Cancer Coalition
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