October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Over 12 percent of women born in the U.S. today – or 1 in 8 women – will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death for women.
Despite the prevalence of breast cancer and growing general awareness of the disease, there is one form of breast cancer that often receives less public attention and fewer community resources.
When cancer cells spread from the breast and metastasize in other parts of the body, including the lungs, liver, bones and brain, the cancer is then known as “Stage IV” or metastatic breast cancer. Approximately 5 percent of all newly diagnosed breast cancer cases are diagnosed as metastatic breast cancer and 30 percent of early stage breast cancer will eventually become metastatic.
At present, there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, and the best that someone diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer can hope for is a long remission. Unfortunately, the median survival rate is only two to three years and the five-year survival rate is only 15 percent.
There are roughly 155,000 American men and women living with metastatic breast cancer right now. Nearly 40,000 women and men die every year from metastatic breast cancer, and that number hasn’t improved in two decades.
However, despite the morbidity and mortality associated with metastatic breast cancer, however, only 5 to 8 percent of total funding for breast cancer research goes to metastatic breast cancer.
We need cures for breast cancer, period. But as we continue to shine a light on the importance of breast cancer awareness and research, we should also be sure that we are aggressively pursuing ways to help those with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is a serious health issue that warrants additional community resources to increase awareness, provide support for those affected by the disease and educate others on the prevention and early detection of the disease.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.