The elephant in the pink room, as most of you know but some of you don’t, is Stage IV Metastic Breast Cancer. This is not caused by a late diagnosis of breast cancer, or a certain type of breast cancer, or by lack of medical treatment. The truth is that 30% of all breast cancer patients will end up with metastatic disease where the breast cancer has spread from the original location (the breast) to remote organs. These organs most commonly are the liver, lungs, brain and bones. Cancer can spread anywhere it pleases, but these are the most common locations for breast cancer to spread. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have or are receiving treatment, metastatic disease is random.
The cancer cells that have spread to remote organs in the body do not become that type of cancer. For instance, if your breast cancer has spread to the liver, you do not have liver cancer, or bone cancer if cells have spread to the bone. You still have breast cancer, but it has gone beyond the breast.
During this time of Pinktober, where retailers everywhere are offering something pink and contributing a very small percentage to breast cancer awareness, there is absolutely nothing being done to make people aware of metastatic disease. By now I think that most of us are aware of breast cancer. Spending more money on awareness just does not seem like the best allocation of funds. It’s time to start concentrating on research, cures, and of course the elephant in the pink room, metastic breast cancer.
If you want to make a difference and help find a cure, be sure that the money that you are donating or the organization that you are buying from, donates to research and to finding cures for cancer. The two best organizations that I am aware of are the American Cancer Society and Stand Up To Cancer. These two organizations raise funds for groundbreaking research that will eventually find a cure and end cancer. No awareness money wasted here.
Breast cancer in reality is not pink and pretty. It is a disease that strikes men and women without family histories and for no rhyme or reason. There are many different types of breast cancer including HER2Positive, HER Negative, Inflammatory and more. It strikes mostly our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, aunts and grandmothers. Early detection is not the answer. There are many women surviving Stage IV Metastic Breast Cancer whose first breast tumor was found in its very early stages – myself included. Early detection increases your options for treatment, but it does not prevent your breast cancer from progressing to Stage IV.
Stage IV Metastic Breast Cancer is incurable. There are treatments available that prolong life, but treatment is forever. This is why they call it treatable, but not curable. With treatment you can go into what is called NED (No Evidence of Disease). This can last a year, 2 years, 5 years or 10 years. No one knows and it cannot be predicted. Each treatment available has a limit as to how long it will continue to keep you in the NED condition. When one treatment fails or stops working, you go on to the next available treatment. These treatments include hormone therapy if have hormone receptive breast cancer, or it can be chemotherapy. There are also clinical trials available. There are some women who report that they have been NED with Stage IV Metastic Breast Cancer for 15 years which is rare, but we all hope for this.
So the next time that you buy a pink anything in the month of Pinktober, or lick the lid of a yogurt cover and send it in in the name of awareness – STOP and consider where your dollars may be more useful and may actually make the difference between finding a cure and not finding a cure.
Save a life today or sometime in the future by donating to the American Cancer Society or Stand Up To Cancer and help them eliminate the Elephant in the pink room.