Drive to raise awareness of Metastatic Breast Cancer
ANNAPOLIS, Md. and WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. — “The cancer has spread. We can offer you treatment, but ultimately, it is incurable.” A metastatic breast cancer (MBC) diagnosis comes with many medical, practical and emotional challenges as patients adjust to their new reality. For many, this terminal diagnosis can lead to significant distress, with feelings of shock and fear, and a loss of their sense of control over their lives. At the same time, patients must cope with increasing physical, psychological and financial problems that limit their activities. Perhaps more importantly, they suffer from widespread public perception that the spread of their cancer is avoidable, and therefore MBC is somehow the patients’ fault. To encourage an open dialogue among people with MBC and those who care for them, and help the MBC community build networks of support, METAvivor, an organization dedicated to the specific fight of women and men living with metastatic (stage 4) breast cancer, and Eisai Inc. are launching the #ThisIsMBC campaign.
“The average survival for those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer is only two to three years. While some MBC patients do indeed live longer than expected, and a very small number do not die of their disease, for the vast majority, MBC is deadly,” said CJ Corneliussen-James, president of METAvivor. “In addition to our research mission, our efforts focus on raising awareness and educating the public about the impact that metastatic breast cancer has, not only on the patient, but also on our society. The #ThisIsMBC campaign is our latest effort to address this issue. With more public understanding and acceptance, patients will feel less isolated and alone. It is our fervent hope that increased public knowledge will result in greater funding for stage IV cancer research, for there is nothing that we, as patients, hold more sacred than life itself.”
Creative expression has been shown to provide numerous benefits for people with cancer, from emotional expression and release, to reductions in symptoms of distress, to helping re-establish a sense of self. Additionally, research has shown that two-thirds of women with MBC find it helpful to listen to or read about other people’s experiences with metastatic breast cancer. Over the next year, those living with MBC and the friends and loved ones who care for them are encouraged to share their own representations of their experiences on social media, using the hashtag #ThisIsMBC. These expressions can take many forms, from simple messages, to art, photography, music, crafts or creative writing that offers a way to convey the experiences of living with this disease.
The act of sharing experiences through creative expression that is at the heart of #ThisIsMBC is exemplified in the work of one MBC patient, Beth Fairchild, vice president at METAvivor, who collaborated on the design of the signature artwork for the campaign. Beth was diagnosed with metastatic disease in May 2014, when she was 34 years old. Since then she has become an advocate for awareness and research funding for MBC. In designing the campaign artwork, Beth, a tattoo artist, combined words and images that speak to the broad range of emotions people living with MBC may face from day to day.
“Until my diagnosis, I had never heard the word ‘metastatic,’ so I was shocked to learn that about 90% of all cancer deaths are due to metastatic disease—yet I struggled to find information specific to MBC at first,” Beth said. “It became really important to me to get involved in whatever way I could to help educate the public about the unique circumstances of living with MBC, in the hopes that others would have greater access to information that was so hard for me to piece together about the disease when I was first diagnosed.”
About 6% of the nearly 250,000 people that will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States this year, or close to 15,000 people, will have metastatic breast cancer as their initial diagnosis. This means that at the time they are first diagnosed, the cancer already will have spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body. Among those initially diagnosed with an earlier stage cancer, about 30% will have disease that ultimately metastasizes. But for all the public discussion about breast cancer, information about metastatic disease can be hard to come by. MBCInfoCenter.com, developed by Eisai, provides those living with an MBC diagnosis access to valuable information and resources pooled from some of the most credible sources available. These include:
- Information on the disease and treatment options
- Overview of common side effects and suggested side effect and pain management techniques
- Healthy lifestyle tips
- Strategies to manage finances while living with MBC
“As a human health care (hhc) company dedicated to identifying and addressing unmet needs for patients and their families, we are proud to partner with METAvivor on this initiative to support the underserved MBC community and bring awareness to the real-life experiences of people living with metastatic breast cancer,” saidTeresa Cronin, Director of Corporate Advocacy, Eisai Inc. “This campaign is an extension of our commitment to helping to increase the benefits health care provides, not only with effective therapies but also with information and resources to help patients facing serious illnesses.”
About Metastatic Breast Cancer
One in 8 women has a chance of developing invasive breast cancer. About 249,260 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States in 2016, and nearly 40,900 of them will die from the disease. Metastatic breast cancer is an advanced stage of the disease that occurs when the original cancer spreads beyond the breast to other parts of the body. Breast cancer of any stage can metastasize, and this can occur well after the initial diagnosis, even 30 or more years later.
As of 2014, there were an estimated 3.1 million women living in the United States who had been diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. However, the total number of women living with MBC, including those who were diagnosed with metastatic disease or whose disease progressed later, is not currently measured. The five-year survival rate is 85% for women who have an initial diagnosis of regional metastases, in which the cancer has spread to lymph nodes; only 26% of women with distant metastases at diagnosis are estimated to be alive five years later.