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Metastatic Breast Cancer – Did You Know?

During October, and actually all year long now, there is a lot of hoopla that goes on surrounding breast cancer awareness. We see pictures of people walking or running in races. We see pink stuff for sale everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. We see restaurants, bars, and bakeries serving up pink drinks and pink foods. We see buildings (even The White House) and bridges lit up in pink. We see people dressing up or decorating bras (or removing them, yeah, like that’ll help) in the name of awareness. We see ads suggesting women should check themselves or better yet have their partners feel their boobies, tatas, melons, honkers, racks, or fill in the blank with whatever seems trendy or might garner the most attention as to what to call breasts…

It’s almost like breast cancer is the feel-good-party-atmosphere-kind of cancer (you’re picturing what I’m talking about right now aren’t you?) and not just in October any more. And no, I am not against people having a good time.

But have you also noticed what you don’t see a lot of or hear much about during October?

You don’t see or hear a lot about the 155,000-250,000 (no, there isn’t even an accurate number) women and men who are living with metastatic breast cancer, the stage 4 kind, the kind that can’t be packaged quite so neatly in pink or pink ribbons. You don’t often hear that someone dies from breast cancer every fourteen minutes in the United States alone or that there’s a dismal amount of dollars earmarked specifically for mets research.

Maybe this is exactly why so many people still don’t know what metastatic breast cancer even is.

It’s not like it’s been talked about much during the rah-rah pink hoopla all these years.

I call this a big fail of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in fact, it’s the biggest fail of all IMO.

What can you and I do to help change things?

Well for starters, this October (or any time) when you’re at a “pink event”, shopping at the grocery store, watching your favorite NFL team play while hanging out with friends, or merely chatting with co-workers or neighbors, why not ask a few questions when and if you get the chance – not in a mean-spirited or condescending why-don’t-you-know sort of way, but rather with a genuine desire to share information about metastatic breast cancer.

Why not simply try asking, did you know…?

  • Did you know an estimated 25-30% of early stage breast cancers go on to metastasize at some point regardless of stage at diagnosis?
  • Did you know 6% are diagnosed right out of the gate as stage 4, the forevermore in treatment kind?
  • Did you know men can get breast cancer too?
  • Did you know roughly 40,000 women and men still die annually from mbc in the US alone?
  • Did you know that biting into that pink cupcake or purchasing those pink garbage bags probably isn’t doing much toward helping us reach those goals of a cure, prevention and better treatments?
  • Did you know the company you bought that pink gizmo from might not be donating as much as you think (or even anything), to the cause?
  • Did you know that less than 7% of donated dollars is actually designated for metastatic-type research?
  • Did you know that women in your community do not all have equal access to healthcare?
  • Did you know that mammograms do not prevent breast cancer?
  • Did you know early detection doesn’t mean a cancer cannot still metastasize later on, even twenty years later?
  • Did you know that metastatic breast cancer is the only kind that kills?

And the list could go on and on…

Maybe if more people did know the facts and became aware of what metastatic breast cancer is, we could make more meaningful progress on all fronts.

Perhaps striving to make more people aware of the entire spectrum of this disease won’t feel quite as party-like, but a dose of reality now and then might do a whole lot more good in the long run.

This October and beyond, let’s all do what we can to help make metastatic breast cancer matter more.

Because breast cancer awareness without mets awareness isn’t awareness at all.

What will you do to help raise awareness about metastatic breast cancer?

What would you add to the list?

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Edit Note:  Images updated to honor my online friend Vickie Young Wen who died from metastatic breast cancer on October 20, 2016. She blogged at I want more than a pink ribbon. #wewillnotforget

 

Image via I want more than a pink ribbon. #wewillnotforget
Image via I want more than a pink ribbon. #wewillnotforget

8 thoughts on “Metastatic Breast Cancer – Did You Know?

  1. Every fourteen minutes. I’ve never heard it broken down to that level before, and that’s chilling. When you’re living with MBC like I am, even if you’ve come to terms with the whole ‘mortality’ thing, seeing that kind of number in print is enough to make you stop in your tracks and wonder when your own fourteen minutes will be called to the stage.

    1. Susanne, It is chilling isn’t it? And sad. And infuriating. And unacceptable. There’s so much yet to be done, but at least it seems mbc is being spotlighted more and more. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Great post, Nancy, and a reminder that metastatic breast cancer is the type that kills, yet so little is said about it every month. These facts are so accurate and so haunting, but the general public doesn’t quite know these things. Conversation starters, like the ones you mentioned, are key to helping people understand the nature of breast cancer.

    1. Beth, The facts are what people deserve to hear, all of them. I am pleased to see more focus being given to mbc, but still, so many people have never even heard of it, despite all these years of awareness… Such a failure IMO. Thank you for reading and commenting too.

  3. Excellent post, Nancy. One of the many things I admire about you is your enlightening voice about metastatic breast cancer. IMO, people tend to focus on issues that relate to their situations, but not you. Your commitment to educating and shining a spotlight on mets has made a difference. Because of you I am paying greater attention and incorporating the talking points you outlined into my discussions with people in an attempt to better educate and hopefully raise money for more research. Thank you for all you do, not just in October, but 24/7, 365.

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