Metastatic Breast Cancer Information
For those of us who live with metastatic breast cancer, research does not move fast enough. While patients focus on wanting more new, systemic therapies to stabilize our disease, we may not realize that some researchers and clinicians are looking at attacking metastatic disease using different approaches.
One such approach was discussed at MBCN’s 2012 Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference in Chicago. During a breakout session, Dr. Steven Chmura, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Chicago, discussed how he uses concentrated forms of radiotherapy to destroy 5 or fewer metastatic sites beyond the primary site in patients with oligometastasis which is characterized by a single or few detectable metastatic sites.
Radiotherapy was discussed publicly recently when six cancer centers across the United States each received $90 million from the billionaire-shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig to study metastatic disease. One center receiving funds is the University of Chicago, which has been examining if there is a rational basis for optimism about curing some subsets of metastatic disease, like oligometastasis through radiotherapy.
I invite you to view the video about the use of radiotherapy in metastatic disease. In it, Dr. Chmura discusses a young metastatic breast cancer patient whose life was transformed by this therapeutic approach. If you listen carefully, she is still receiving regular “preventive” treatments, but is able to have a good quality of life without pain.
Finally, listen carefully to the opening statement by Dr. Ralph Weichselbaum in the video. He says, “It is the common view of many physicians, including oncologists, that it is all over if an adult has metastasis.” That kind of thinking is an obstacle to research that must change. As patients, we must support those researchers and clinicians who are willing to “think out of the box” about different ways to treat metastatic disease. Remember, “Informed patients make better doctors.”
Breast cancer in the breast is not life-threatening. However, when breast cancer travels outside of the breast (usually to the brain, liver, lungs or bones), it becomes metastatic or Stage IV. Approximately 5% of newly diagnosed breast cancer cases are metastatic or Stage IV (interchangeable designations) but even more startling is that approximately 30% of early stage breast cancer will become Stage IV. So with more than 1/3 of all breast cancer patients having to deal with metastatic breast cancer, why don’t we hear more about it and why is it not receiving more attention.
If you ever meet a woman dealing with metastatic breast cancer, you will know what real courage is.
If you ever meet a woman dealing with metastatic breast cancer, you will know what real courage is. These women go through regimens of all sorts of chemotherapy, most often with a combination of chemo drugs. If a certain combo works, it may work for a couple of weeks or months and then stop working altogether. A new combo is then tried which may not work at all or perhaps may stop the spread of the cancer and perhaps even diminish it for an undetermined amount of time. The side effects of these chemicals can be so devastating to the sufferers both internally and externally. And sadly, most members of this community have to look to fellow sufferers for help and answers of what can be done to lessen the pain and other effects. That leads me to understand that we don’t know nearly enough about this cancer when the sufferers have to rely on each other for answers.
Nearly 40,000 women in the US alone will be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer this year. While those of us who were fortunate enough to have our breast cancer treated and removed before hopefully it spread outside of the breast, those women whose breast cancer has spread know that at this moment, there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. The effects of treatment are costly on all fronts. Nearly two-thirds of personal bankruptcy filings in the United States are due to medical debt, according to the nonprofit National Patient Advocate Foundation. Families run up overwhelming medical bills treating a seriously ill loved one and although I can’t determine at this moment exactly how many are due to metastatic breast cancer, knowing the extremely high cost of the drugs and the devastation wreaked upon those who are being treated that can no longer work or take care of their families, we can get a pretty good idea of the financial costs to each person.
This doesn’t even begin to address the emotional and psychological treatment that should be afforded to these patients. Living a life plagued with the uncertainty of whether treatment can be found to help, wondering for how long it will work, suffering pain physically, financially and emotionally, etc. demands a recognition of the need of this additional treatment. And what about those who have a doctor who really doesn’t care and dismisses a patient with the words like we can’t do anything else for you; you have 3 months to live.
We are humans and taking on this fight for life alone makes these people super human and that is before they even begin treatment. In addition to the treatments are finding the ways to get to and from chemo treatment appointments, regular doctors’ appointments and testing locations. How do we expect them to manage all of the day to day expectations like child care, making a living, providing food, clothing, shelter and education for other family members? And what about the emotional and psychological needs of the spouses, partners, children, relatives, other family members and friends who will be providing for the patient and her needs?
We need to do more. We need to allocate more money and resources to research and education. We know that the researchers are out there looking for answers but often do not have the funds necessary to pursue certain theories or do the clinical trials necessary to determine the success of a certain treatment. We have lots of efforts throughout this country raising monies to find the cure and every single donation made and all of the funds raised are needed for so many programs to help those in need. But we need the research to make the long-term difference. We can keep putting band-aids on the problems but sooner than later, we need to eliminate the disease entirely. I do believe that we have the talent and the minds and the dedication of those needed to find the answers. Now we need to give them the means to do so.
Source: LetLifeHappen.com – Oct 20, 2013
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.
Source: LetLifeHappen.com – October 7, 2013
The study, “The Ketogenic Diet and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Prolong Survival in Mice with Systemic Metastatic Cancer,” was published online today in PLOS ONE.
Led by Dominic D’Agostino, PhD, principal investigator in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the research shows the effects of combining two nontoxic adjuvant cancer therapies, the ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in a mouse model of late-stage, metastatic cancer.
“Our study demonstrates the potential of these cost-effective, nontoxic therapies to contribute to current cancer treatment regimens and significantly improve the outcome of patients with advanced metastatic cancer,” D’Agostino said.
Metastasis, the spreading of cancer from the primary tumor to distant spots, is responsible for over 90 percent of cancer-related deaths in humans. A lack of available therapies effective against metastatic disease remains the largest obstacle in finding a cure for cancer.
In the study, mice with advanced metastatic cancer were fed either a standard high carbohydrate diet or carbohydrate-restricted ketogenic diet. Mice on both diets also received hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which uses a special chamber to increase the amount of oxygen in the tissues.
The ketogenic diet forces a physiological shift in substrate utilization from glucose to fatty acids and ketone bodies for energy. Normal healthy cells readily adapt to using ketone bodies for fuel, but cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility, and thus become selectively vulnerable to reduced glucose availability. Solid tumors also have areas of low oxygen, which promotes tumor growth and metastatic spread.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing 100 percent oxygen at elevated barometric pressure, saturating the tumors with oxygen. When administered properly, both the ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy are non-toxic and may even protect healthy tissues while simultaneously damaging cancer cells, D’Agostino said.
While both therapies slowed disease progression independently, animals receiving the combined ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy lived 78 percent longer than mice fed a standard high-carbohydrate diet.
The research, funded by a charitable donation from Scivation, was inspired by the research of Professor Thomas Seyfried of Boston College. Dr. Seyfried has advanced the theory that cancer is a metabolic disease, inspiring the development of metabolic strategies to treat and prevent cancer.
D`Agostino`s team is currently collaborating with Dr. Seyfried and other scientists to secure funding and develop protocols for establishing human clinical trials.
Shared by: Vera Viner
One of the most frustrating things about treating cancer is that even when the treatment is working, the cells find a way to resist. Breast cancer begins, of course, in the breast, but it may not stay contained. Metastatic breast cancer can travel to different sites in the body and contaminate the cells. Breast cancer has many stages and metastatic breast cancer is one of the most worrisome because of its ability to find new host locations. Here is some helpful information about this invader.
What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?
Metastatic breast cancer is a stage of breast cancer that has spread to other body parts, organs, and/or tissues. It is often called Advanced or Stage IV breast cancer. Typically, breast cancer will travel to the lymph nodes, brain, lungs, liver, and bones. The most common place for metastatic breast cancer to materialize is in the bones. Most episodes of metastatic breast cancer are recurrences.
Is This Cancer Different?
Metastatic breast cancer differs from the primary type of breast cancer in many different ways. Their receptor status has allowed them to develop a resistance or immunity to different types of treatment. These cells have acquired the ability to metastasize to other places. This makes metastatic breast cancer much more dangerous and serious.
DID YOU KNOW?
Nearly 3/4 of all patients who succumb to breast cancer have bone metastases.
What are the Treatment Goals for Metastatic Breast Cancer?
Unfortunately women who have advanced metastatic breast cancer have a lower survival rate than women with cancer in earlier stages. Women with metastatic cancer can have a fulfilling and rewarding quality of life. The focus on treating metastatic breast cancer is managing the condition as a chronic disease. The goals are to prolong the patient’s life, maintaining a good quality of life. Talk with your doctor about treatment options.
What are the Treatment Options?
There are many types of treatment available for metastatic breast cancer. Hormone therapy can be effective in women who have tumors that are positive to hormone receptors (ER+). Hormone therapy works to shrink the tumor. Chemotherapy is another option. The goal of this treatment is to stop tumor growth, kill cancerous cells and reduce the symptoms associated with breast cancer. Targeted therapy is a treatment option that goes after cancer cells that possess certain features. Herceptin is an approved targeted therapy.
Is Metastatic Breast Cancer Painful?
Pain from metastatic breast cancer is one of the greatest fears that patients have. The condition can be very painful, but, the pain can be managed. This can be done is through relaxation techniques, hypnosis, and meditation. You should keep track of your pain symptoms. Keep a journal and record where the pain is, when it happens, how long it lasts and what eases the pain. This will help you and your doctor develop a plan to manage the pain.
What if I Don’t Want Further Treatment?
A point can come when the side effects of the treatment outweigh the benefits. You might then consider stopping the treatment and turn to palliative (hospice) care. The goal of palliative care is to provide the patient with the best quality of life for as long as possible. You are the only person who could and should make this decision. Once you have made up your mind on this, talk with your doctor, and ask your family and friends to support your decision.
Breast cancer can grow in unpredictable and strange ways. When a woman is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, there are options. Performing a biopsy on the metastatic tumor is generally the next step. Metastatic breast cancer is one of the most advanced stages. You and your doctor can choose many treatment paths. New drugs are coming on the market. Clinical trials are available. Work with your doctor to devise the course of action that is appropriate for you.
After chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to treat the original tumor might not benefit women with advanced breast cancer, a new study shows.
A minority of women with breast cancer discover they have the disease in its later stages, after it has spread to other parts of the body. These patients typically are started on chemotherapy to help shrink the cancerous growths and slow the disease’s progress.
Beyond that, doctors have long wondered whether it’s also a good idea to treat the original breast tumor with surgery or radiation even though the cancer has taken root in other organs.
“Our trial did show there’s no benefit of doing surgery,” said study author Dr. Rajendra Badwe, head of the surgical breast unit at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India.
It didn’t seem to matter if patients were young or old, if their cancer was hormone receptor positive or negative, or if they had a few sites of spreading cancer or a lot. Surgery didn’t prolong their lives.
The study was scheduled for presentation this week at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, in Texas.
The results aren’t shocking, since experiments in animals performed more than 30 years ago suggested that cutting out the primary tumor only egged on cancer at the secondary sites.
But studies in humans have suggested that removing the original cancer in the breast may increase survival. Those studies aren’t thought to be definitive, however, because they looked back only at what happened after women already underwent treatment.
One expert not involved in the new study also questioned the selection of patients in the previous research.
“There’s a lot of bias with that because you tend to operate on patients you think might do well to begin with,” said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “We definitely need more evidence to guide us.”
To collect that evidence, researchers randomly assigned 350 women who responded to their initial chemotherapy to one of two courses of treatment. The first group had surgery followed by radiation to remove the original breast tumor and lymph nodes under the arms. The second group received only observation and appropriate medication.
After an average of 17 months of follow-up, there was essentially no difference in survival between the women who had their original tumors removed and those who had not. There were 111 deaths in the group that had their breast cancers cut out compared to 107 deaths in the group that did not.
Badwe said there is a tradeoff in these patients.
Surgery and radiation can clear the tumor from the breast. That can be a big benefit for women who are bothered because they can feel the mass or if it has become ulcerated or broken through the skin, she said.
But as in those early animal studies, Badwe and his team found that cutting out the breast tumor seemed to increase the growth of cancer at distant sites.
“This is the first human study to show that,” he said.
Badwe said it’s not clear why or how the primary tumor might control overall cancer growth. He said other studies would need to examine that.
Another cancer expert said more research is needed to settle the issue.
“I applaud the authors for doing this, but I don’t think this is the last word,” said Dr. Richard Bleicher, a breast surgeon at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
Bleicher said the relatively small number of patients didn’t give the study enough power to show clear differences between the treatment options.
A larger trial funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, which plans to enroll nearly 900 patients, is looking into the same question, he said. That study isn’t due to wrap up until 2025, so it might be a while before doctors have more robust evidence.
Studies presented at medical conferences are considered preliminary since they have not yet had the independent scrutiny required for publication in most medical journals.
For more information on metastatic breast cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute .
The three words that no person ever wants to hear is “You Have Cancer”. Your life is changed forever. You wonder “Why Me” and how did I get cancer. And then it starts. It’s bad enough that you have to endure what you are going to do in order to treat the cancer situations but all of a sudden, you are faced with the thought that you did something to cause the cancer and this belief is being reinforced at every turn.
For the breast cancer patients, you are told that being overweight, not exercising enough, not eating the right foods, allowing stress in your life, having too many sweets and on and on are the reason that a person gets that cancer. You start buying into all of that and blame yourself for causing your own cancer. Of course, there are those who indicate that other cancers may be caused by these same factors along with a host of other suppositions that come to their minds. You just never stop to think about those who you know that seem to eat the perfect diet and exercise regularly and live what most people believe to a really healthy life and still get cancer.
I truly don’t believe that any of us should ever feel guilty that we may/might have caused our own cancer. There just isn’t any basis for it.
There are those who get lung cancer and the assumption is that they are/were smokers. If such is not the case, then they must have been exposed to second-hand smoke or other carcinogens. But, there are plenty of people who get lung cancer and don’t have any of those factors in their lives and there are plenty of smokers who never get lung cancer despite the continuation of this habit.
Well, I am tired of those with cancer being made to feel guilty about having cancer. If we truly knew how and why a person gets any kind of cancer, we could immediately have a cure. Obviously that is not the case. All we have to do is just look at the group of women who have metastatic breast cancer. If it were a one solution fits all situations, then everyone would need only one type of chemo or combination of drugs. But, we know that some drugs work for some while not for others. Some things work for a short period of time for one while the same treatment works for others for years. And, sadly, for some, there are no drugs or combination of drugs that make a difference in their lives. If only the solution was as simple as changing the foods we eat or doing a few more minutes of exercise every day or whatever idea is the hot topic of the day.Therefore, I wish everyone would stop telling others how to live their lives. I have already seen more than enough articles telling cancer patients/survivors about how they should eat during the holidays and how they should legislate their lives to not overdue it but to make sure they get enough exercise and sleep enough, etc. What they are essentially saying is that you already screwed up once by not doing the right thing so don’t do it again or you will get more cancer. They are also telling every other person who does not have cancer that if they don’t change their ways, cancer could very well be their fate, too. Well, enough is enough.
I don’t know about anyone else but I have no intention of not enjoying today and every other day to its fullest. I don’t know what caused my cancer nor does anyone else for that matter. I plan to enjoy the holidays and if I choose to have some extra cookies or whatever, so what. And that doesn’t just apply to the holidays. I want to live, free of fear that what I do or don’t do will cause cancer to return. That is the gift that I gave to myself a long time ago and what I want for every other person whose life has been touched by cancer in any way. I truly don’t believe that any of us should ever feel guilty that we may/might have caused our own cancer. There just isn’t any basis for it.
Source: LetLifeHappen.com – Dec 1, 2013
With the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the pink ribbons are being put away for another year and the fund-raising campaigns are winding down. So many have contributed in so many ways to raise awareness and to provide funding for future research, education and assistance to those who are now dealing with or will face breast cancer in the future. So what happens between now and next October when the campaigns begin all over again?
For some people, they are so glad that they do not have to see a pink ribbon wherever they turn and are so glad that the month is over. They are very cynical and believe that all of the money raised is just to line the pockets of the big breast cancer organizations in the name of a worthy cause. But, if you look around and talk to others, you will see a whole different picture.
Of course, the ultimate hope for the future is to find the key to the cause of cancer in order to stop it before it gets started. We all hope for the day when we may be able to be immunized against this disease.
There are so many programs that help members of our communities every day. There is funding to provide mammograms to those who can’t afford them. There is money contributed to provided medications and treatments to those that need the help. There are programs to help those who need assistance with bills and groceries and rent and transportation for doctor appointments and this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how the funds are used to help breast cancer survivors everywhere.
But, the help that is given in providing education and research is absolutely immeasurable. For more than one-third of those who are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer or whose breast cancer metastasizes, their hope is in what will be done to find the answers to cure their breast cancer. These women also need funding to help them with not only the medical treatment that they need but also to deal with the psychological impact that this disease has on them. And then there are the families and friends who need assistance in dealing with all of the needs of the patients and in knowing what to do and how to do it.
Of course, the ultimate hope for the future is to find the key to the cause of cancer in order to stop it before it gets started. We all hope for the day when we may be able to be immunized against this disease. However, until that day comes, we need to focus on finding the answers to stopping the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body where it then becomes life threatening. We need to educate others to understand that just because a person has a double mastectomy that does not automatically guarantee that the breast cancer has not already travelled outside of the breast area. However, with the help of the funds that have been raised and the support provided to those with breast cancer, the future today just keeps on getting brighter.
Source: LetLifeHappen.com – Nov 3, 2013
On October 1st, the world will again be blanketed with “The Pink Ribbon”. For many people who have never been touched by the world of breast cancer, they feel that they are being assaulted by nothing more than a huge fundraiser where the money raised will go to line the pockets of the big pharmaceutical companies and other research organizations. They believe that all of the big companies in the breast cancer world are playing upon our sympathies, using our mothers and sisters and grandmothers and aunts and friends as the pawns in a big financial game. They believe that there is no honest effort being made to find a cure or answers to treat advanced stages of breast cancer. However, from my own experiences and work as a patient advocate, I can assure you that this is anything but the reality of what the breast cancer awareness campaigns are all about.
I know personally that if it weren’t for the help and work and research of a whole lot of people, my own outcome would have been entirely different in a very negative way.
I am not in a position to make a donation to all of the organizations that are doing various types of work in breast cancer treatment and research. I can’t contribute to every person that is doing a walk for the cure. I can’t buy every product whose manufacturer has pledged to donate a portion of their sales to a breast cancer organization. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t contribute to the cause in my own way.
From my own experience, based upon the technology that was available at the time that I was diagnosed, my actual cancer was assessed and it was determined that I did not need chemotherapy. The possibility of radiation and hormone therapy were discussed with me and based on the information provided by my oncologist and my own personal decisions, I made my choices. Now, if I believed that everyone was just out to make money on me, I would have had chemo, radiation, hormone therapy and a battery of totally unnecessary tests on at least a yearly basis. However, I have faith in the medical professionals with whom I was/am involved and I do not believe that a single one of them was ever motivated by the money they could make on me either directly or in tandem with working with a pharmaceutical company. If I would ever have believed that, I would have changed my doctors.
I have been following the research that is going on in the world and I am in awe of some of the advancements that have been made in the last 4 years since my last cancer-related surgery. The idea of a radiation treatment at the time of surgery applied directly to the site from which the cancer has been removed is such a wonderful advancement. The expansion of the ability to test each cancer in order to determine the best treatment for each patient is fantastic. The knowledge that just because someone has Stage IV metastatic breast cancer does not mean a death sentence shows just how far all of the research has come. The new techniques that are being explored in reconstructions that have expanded the options of the patient are almost mind boggling to me. And there is a vaccine in the early stages of testing which may become the ultimate answer to breast cancer in and of itself.
Many of these fundraisers also apply a lot of their monies to other support programs for those with breast cancer. Monies are raised at this time that will provide surgeries for those who can’t afford them. There are the programs that assist with the medications that the patients need including chemo and radiation therapies. There are those that assist families with daily expenses because the patient is not able to work and provide for their own basic necessities as well as those of their families. There are those that assist with wigs and prosthetics for patients in need. There are those that provide transportation to medical appointments or to surgery facilities that are at a distance, including air transport. And there are those which help with hospice care for those who are in need of those services. And believe me when I say that this only scratches the surface of the help that is needed and provided to breast cancer patients.
So I ask that the next time that you see a pink ribbon, you may embrace the work that is being done under the umbrella of that symbol and know that your contribution in whatever way you are able to give it is greatly appreciated. Together we can make a difference for women everywhere regardless of whether they are near and dear to us or are underserved in our own country or other countries around the world. I know personally that if it weren’t for the help and work and research of a whole lot of people, my own outcome would have been entirely different in a very negative way.
Source: LetLifeHappen – Sep 29, 2013