So here it is, are you ready? The Nine Myths of MBC
Let’s get started.
Myth #1: Metastatic breast cancer is curable.
The comment I get over and over again, “I didn’t know you are still having chemo.”
Let me say this loud and clear MBC is not curable.
However, treatments can keep it from growing and spreading for months and sometimes years at a time.
When a treatment regimen stops working a different treatment can be tried. But cancer is smart and eventually spreads and grows again.
People with MBC need to be in treatment for the rest of their lives.
The goal of treatment for an MBC patient is to prolong life as long as possible.
Myth #2: People with metastatic breast cancer have a short amount of time left.
Some people mistakenly think MBC is curable, the other extreme is those who assume it’s an immediate death sentence..
Although MBC will shorten someone’s life, it often can be managed for years at a time.
Myth #3: People with metastatic breast cancer look sick and lose their hair.
“You don’t look sick.” “Why do you still have your hair?”
If you know me, there were a few months that I did lose my hair from chemotherapy. What you need to understand is that there are many types of chemo treatments, and not all chemotherapy causes hair loss.
I still go to my oncologist and have chemotherapy treatment every three weeks. I am currently not bald, and I am also not nauseous from the procedure. I will be honest that there are days when I might look better than I feel. This specific chemotherapy is working well for me at this time. I consider myself one of the lucky patients out there.
Myth #4: Metastatic breast cancer requires more aggressive treatment than earlier-stage breast cancer.
People often think that because MBC is advanced cancer, doctors have to pull out all the stops to fight it. But that’s actually not the case.
The goal of treating MBC is control rather than cure. Think of it as a marathon vs. a 50-yard dash.
Doctors treat earlier-stage breast cancer more aggressively because the goal is to cure it.
They want to destroy all of the cancer cells and leave none behind, reducing the risk of recurrence as much as possible.
Myth #5: If you’re diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, you did something wrong or didn’t get the right treatment the first time.
Often people hear “stage IV breast cancer,” and they assume something must have been missed along the way to let cancer get that far.
There is a misconception that breast cancer always develops in orderly steps from stages I to II, III, and then IV — and that there’s plenty of time to catch it early.
My cancer and diagnosis was stage 4 from day one.
Myth #6: Metastatic breast cancer is a single type of cancer that will be treated the same way for every person.
The label “metastatic” contributes to the myth that it is one kind of breast cancer.
Just like earlier-stage breast cancers, stage IV cancers can have different characteristics that will guide treatment choices.
Cancer can test positive or negative for hormone receptors and/or an abnormal HER2 gene. These test results guide treatment choices.
Treatment choices can depend on a person’s age, overall health, and whether there are other medical conditions present.
The bottom line? Treatments vary. There is the misconception … that there is one standardized treatment for every case of MBC like a ‘one size fits all.’ But there are different approaches. Most people don’t realize there are various subcategories of this disease.”
Myth #7: When breast cancer travels to the bone, brain, liver or lungs, it then becomes “bone cancer,” “brain cancer,” “liver cancer” or “lung cancer.”
This is not true. Breast cancer is still breast cancer, wherever it travels in the body.
Did you know that the characteristics of the cells can change over time? For example, breast cancer that tested negative for hormone receptors or an abnormal HER2 gene might test positive when it moves to another part of the body, or vice versa (positive can become negative).
Those cancer cells are trying to survive in the body, so they can change. Those smart little buggers.
Myth #8: If earlier-stage breast cancer is going to recur as metastatic breast cancer, it will happen within 5 years of the original diagnosis.
Ninety percent of MBC diagnoses occur in people who have already been treated for earlier-stage breast cancer. Many people are under the impression that remaining cancer-free for 5 years means that a metastatic recurrence can’t happen. However, recurrences can occur several years or even decades after initial diagnosis.
Myth #9: The mental and emotional experience of people with MBC is the same as that of earlier-stage patients.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink Pink and More Pink
Someone with early-stage breast cancer might find comfort in the campaign about early detection and research that is done to prevent breast cancer. This same person can look forward to one-day finishing treatment and moving on.
The pink campaign often offends a metastatic bc patient.
Think about it, how often do you hear about a campaign to prolong life and actually find a cure for breast cancer.
A person with MBC knows they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives. They also know that their life is likely to be shorter than they’d planned.
Mentally and emotionally, people with MBC have a completely different experience.
I won’t be ‘ringing the bell’ to celebrate the end of treatment.
As a patient who has a chemotherapy infusion once a month, I plan my life around the treatment.
I live with MBC disease always in the background of my life.
Fortunately, with the newer therapies, I have a chance of living longer and maintaining a good quality of life.