Breast cancer doesn't kill people, metastatic breast cancer does

There's a day for everything, right? But this one is important. Today is metastatic breast cancer day.

In a month when everyone rallies to save the tatas (which is annoying since I think my life is a bit more important -- shouldn't it be save the person attached to the tatas?), today is a wake-up call that early detection is not always a guarantee of a cure.

The fast facts, thanks to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network:

13 Facts about Metastatic Breast Cancer

1. No one dies from breast cancer that remains in the breast. Metastasis occurs when cancerous cells travel to a vital organ and that is what threatens life.

2. Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to different parts of the body, typically the bones, liver, lungs and brain.

3. An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with metastatic breast cancer (also called Stage IV breast cancer). Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.

4. Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is lifelong and focuses on control of the disease and quality of life.

5. About 6% of people are Stage IV from their initial diagnosis.

6. Early detection does not guarantee a cure. Metastatic breast cancer can occur 5, 10 or 15 years
after a person's original diagnosis and successful treatment checkups and annual mammograms.

7. 20% to 30% of people initially diagnosed with early stage disease will develop metastatic breast cancer.

8. Young people, as well as men, can be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

9. Like early stage breast cancer, there are different types of metastatic breast cancer.

10. Treatment choices are guided by breast cancer type, location and extent of metastasis in the body, previous treatments and other factors.

11. Metastatic breast cancer is not an automatic death sentence. Although most people will ultimately die of their disease, some will live for many years.

12. There are no definitive prognostic statistics for metastatic breast cancer. Every patient and their disease is unique.

13. To learn more about National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day on October 13 and to access resources specifically for people living with metastatic breast cancer and their caregivers, visit

The MBCN was formed due to a lack of resources and research in the arena of metastatic breast cancer, the real reason I lost my mother in law and best friend. They were both in remission for years before mets appeared in one's brain and the other's bones.

It is metastatic cancer that I most fear. It's the "vertigo" from a brain tumor, the "soreness" from a longer-than-usual run or a strenuous yoga class that ends up being cancer eating at my bones. The men and women who fight like hell for a year and live in remission just until they're comfortable and are ambushed again are the real warriors.

And we need more resources and more research to help them fight an effective battle against this still-creeping disease. Find real organizations like MBCN and do your research on others like Susan G. Komen, which while doing some good in providing mammograms to women who may not otherwise pursue them, has questionable tactics and alliances and also does little-to-nothing for those who have metastasized.

October is half over, but recognition of an important aspect of breast cancer fundraising does not have to be forgotten. Hopefully, learning more about treating metastatic breast cancer will shine light on other metastatic disease and its treatments.



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