As the Amazon puts it, if you’re not aware of metastatic breast cancer, you’re not aware of breast cancer.
Despite being responsible for virtually every single one of the half a million breast cancer deaths in our world every year, there are very few resources allocated to metastatic breast cancer. METAvivor reports that only 2% of breast cancer dollars are allocated to metastatic breast cancer research. Their 30% for 30% campaign is aimed to change that and they offer research grants directly.
So why don’t we hear more about this? I’ve been thinking about this for years now and thanks to the ground-breaking and influential work of people like Gayle Sulik, I think I have it figured out.
Cancer is a horrorshow, not just in its devastation, but the in the idea that your body is engaged in a sort of civil war. Natural and evolutionary processes have gone awry and the results can be fatal. The randomness is unsettling. We are people who like to think we are in control of our destiny. That this fate can be prevented by diet, exercise, eschewing underwire bras, breast feeding, or happy thoughts. We are trying to avoid the unpredictable reality that we are enslaved to our biology and the progress of science.
That we can do everything right and still die.
We don’t want to think about that, to hear about that, so we plug our ears with pink and lift up SURVIVORS as examples of triumph. We ignore the deaths because we don’t ever want to think that this can happen to us.
Yes, there are millions of people walking around today who have been through breast cancer and are now cancer-free. There are also women who were cancer-free for more than a decade, but whose cancer has returned. And there are people who did it all right and died anyway.
That’s why I rage against the pink machine. I believe it stands in the way of real progress.
Every October 13th is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. Please take time to visit MBCN to learn more about their work and this disease. Below are 13 facts from their website.
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: bones, liver, lungs or brain.
3. An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
4. Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is life-long and focuses on control of the disease and quality of life.
5. About 6% to 10% 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 persons, 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 the disease, some will live long, productive lives.
12. There are no definitive prognostic statistics for metastatic breast cancer. Every patient and their disease are unique.
13. To learn more about National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day and access resources specifically for people living with metastatic breast cancer and their caregivers, visit www. mbcn.org