Metastatic Breast Cancer - Some General Statistics
Metastatic breast cancer accounts for one in every three cancers diagnosed in women today. It is the leading cancer type among American women and is second only to lung cancer in cancer deaths. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women ages 40-59. An estimated 203,500 new invasive cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the United States during 2002. An estimated 39,600 women will die from breast cancer this year.
All women are at risk for breast cancer. The two most significant risk factors are being female and getting older. The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no other known risk factors. Contrary to popular belief, more than 70% of all women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Early detection of breast cancer is the best way to increase your treatment options and increase your chance of survival. On average, mammography will find 90% of the breast cancers in women without overt symptoms. (All statistics provided by the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Y-me National Breast Cancer Organization.)
Metastatic Breast Cancer - One Woman's Story
Metastatic breast cancer survivors love to talk about their treatments, so please bear with me. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 1995. A mammogram showed calcifications in the ductile system of the lower half of my right breast. I had a fibrous right breast for several years and was conscientious about getting annual mammograms. I was sent to a surgeon for a biopsy and was reassured that there was very little chance that it would be malignant, but it was! He recommended a mastectomy since the entire lower half of the breast was involved and reassured me that it was almost certainly ductal carcinoma in situ and had not spread out of the ducts of the breast to the lymph system, but it had!
They removed and examined 12 lymph nodes and only found two malignant cells in the lymph node closest to the breast. A panel of seven oncologists decided that I did not need chemotherapy or radiation since no tumor was found and it appeared that the cancer had just entered the lymph system. They were quite sure they had removed the only affected node. Since the cancer tested positive for estrogen, it was decided to treat me with Tamoxifen to prevent the slightest chance that it might reoccur, but it did!
In December of 1997, a blood test showed that the breast cancer was active. Scans found it in my right clavicle lymph node, in several abdominal nodes, and in the spine. A biopsy showed that it was breast cancer that had metastasized. I began chemotherapy shortly thereafter and have continued weekly treatments ever since. I have had combinations of eight chemotherapies (including, Adriamycin, Taxol, Taxotare, Gemzar, and Navelbine), two complete rounds of radiation (spine and brain), three hormone treatments (Arimidex, Femara and Tamoxifen), and monthly infusions of Aridea to strengthen my bones. Most of my treatments are in six-month schedules with short breaks in between.
Metastatic Breast Cancer - Finding Peace in the Midst of Pain
One in three Americans will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime, which is why we all know someone who has had it, if we have not had it ourselves. I'd like to share my story with you about how I've found peace and joy in the midst of breast cancer. And I hope that what I've learned will help you cope with the trials in your life, reach out to someone going through cancer, or maybe even change your life altogether.