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Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

Tue 13th Oct 2020 | Updated:

A day to recognise and support those diagnosed with terminal Breast Cancer

OCTOBER 13 is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day - a day that brings into focus one of the biggest killer cancers in Australia - metastatic breast cancer.

 

Incurable cancer - the numbers

 

Also called stage IV breast cancer, or advanced breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body, such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain.

 

It is incurable. Treatment is focused on controlling the disease, maintaining a good quality of life and managing the huge array of symptoms. Often, treatment can go on for many years.

 

At the moment, researchers don't know why metastatic disease occurs.  Prevention and early detection is obviously the goal, but even early detection does not prevent a cancer from coming back in the future as metastatic disease. The National Breast Cancer Foundation provides resources on the prevention and early detection of general breast cancers on their website.

 

In Australia, up to 30 percent of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will go on to develop metastatic cancer.  According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the 5-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer is 32%, compared to the 91% on average for all breast cancer patients.

 

Some women are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer as their first diagnosis. For some women, the metastatic diagnosis can come up to 15 years after an original diagnosis and successful treatment of the initial cancer.

 

It is a brutal, cruel and indiscriminate cancer. Despite this, it receives considerably less research interest, funding and support than early stage breast cancer.

 

 

It's terminal, but not all bad

 

But it isn't all bad news. In fact, Breast Cancer Network Australia says that although metastatic breast cancer is not currently considered curable, it is very treatable, and for most people it can be controlled for years. There has been a small number of women whose metastatic breast cancer has been in remission so long, it is thought they may be cured. It is hoped that with increasingly effective treatments in coming years, this will not be such a rare occurrence.

 

This October, we are shining the spotlight on metastatic breast cancer, and the unique support offered through Advanced Breast Cancer Group, a Queensland professionally-led support group designed to address the unique challenges for women living with advanced breast cancer.

 

This free service, funded by Queensland Health, helps women diagnosed with metastatic cancer, providing a safe space in which they can come together to talk about their shared experiences, from managing treatment and side effects, to the impact on themselves and their families and ultimately learning how to live meaningful lives while knowing they have a terminal illness.

 

A symbol of hope

 

For members of Advanced Breast Cancer Group, the dragonfly holds special significance. Members have told of seeing a dragonfly or dragonfly emblem or motif, believing this to be a sign from a member who has passed away.   Walter Dudley Cavert captures it perfectly in Remember Now.

 

"In the bottom of an old pond lived some grubs who could not understand why none of their group ever came back after crawling up the lily stems to the top of the water.

 

"They promised each other that the next one who was called to make the upward climb would return and tell what had happened to him.

 

"Soon one of them felt an urgent impulse to seek the surface; he rested himself on the top of a lily pad and went through a glorious transformation which made him a dragonfly with beautiful wings.

 

"In vain he tried to keep his promise. Flying back and forth over the pond, he peered down at his friends below.

 

"Then he realised that even if they could see him they would not recognize such a radiant creature as one of their number.

 

"The fact that we cannot see our friends or communicate with them after the transformation which we call death is no proof that they cease to exist."

 

Do you want to understand what support is available to people with metastatic breast cancer? Visit www.advancedbreastcancergroup.org.au to learn more about the incredible work being done by the dedicated team.

 

Stand with friends and family living with metastatic breast cancer by sharing this article with the Facebook icon at the top of the page.

 

Sources:

  • https://www.bcna.org.au/media/7111/bcna-2019-current-breast-cancer-statistics-in-australia-11jan2019.pdf
  • https://www.aihw.gov.au/
  • https://www.advancedbreastcancergroup.org.au/the-group/faqs/
  • https://nbcf.org.au/about-breast-cancer/prevention-and-risk
  • https://nbcf.org.au/about-breast-cancer/detection-and-awareness/
  • https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/breast-cancer/statistics
  • https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2019/may/advanced-breast-cancer-an-update-to-systemic-thera