Ladies & Gentlemen, Put On Your Pink!

3/5/2014

Learning you have metastatic breast cancer can be devastating. However, for the approximately 162,000 women in the U.S. facing this advanced stage of breast cancer, new treatments can add years to their life.

The past few decades have yielded exciting research progress. “According to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, just 10 percent of women survived more than five years after being diagnosed in the 1970s," commented Pat Cooper, vice president of Clinical Operations for Quorum Health Resources (QHR). “Today, 40 percent of women with metastatic breast cancer are expected to survive at least five years.”

Medical advances in the fight against cancer hold promise for longer survival rates. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new drug. In clinical trials the drug lengthened the average survival of women with advanced breast cancer by nearly six months.

Metastatic breast cancer is defined as cancer that originated in the breast and has spread to another place in the body. So when cancer cells break away from the breast and develop cancer in the brain, it is called metastatic breast cancer, not brain cancer. In most cases, breast cancer cells spread to the bones, brain, liver and lungs.

October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month which provides an opportunity to increase awareness and to raise funds for research for treatment and a cure. Specifically, October 13 is dedicated to metastatic breast cancer awareness.

“After you have been treated for breast cancer, you should see your doctor regularly for exams and annual mammograms if appropriate,” says Mary Ann Scoglio, Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner at Amery Regional Medical Center who specializes in Oncology Care. “Specifically, breast cancer survivors are at a higher risk of recurrence if the following factors are present: cancer in lymph nodes; a tumor that is five centimeters or larger; lack of radiation after a lumpectomy; women younger than 35-years-old; and inflammatory breast cancer."

Breast cancer survivors should seek medical attention immediately if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • A new lump or irregular firmness
  • Pain in the chest or bones
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Neurological indicators- such as severe headaches
  • Fever
  • Chills
While there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, treatment options can prolong a patient's life while sustaining a quality of life. The most common treatment options include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapy.

Population studies have also linked the following preventative measures to reduced breast cancer incidence:
  • Exercise
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseed, fish, etc.)
  • Vitamin D
  • Avoiding carbohydrates like bread, baked goods, cakes, etc.
  • 7-9 hours of sleep each night
  • Keep your bedroom dark when sleeping to avoid disrupting melatonin levels (a naturally-occurring sleep hormone)
There are several ways you can get involved and help raise awareness. Get a group together to participate in one of the numerous walks for breast cancer this month such as: The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure or Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Even purchasing from a company that donates proceeds to breast cancer research can help. For more information about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month visit http://www.nbcam.org/.

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