If breast cancer has taken someone you love, chances are it was stage IV breast cancer that killed her. Stage IV, or metastatic breast cancer, is cancer that has spread to the bones, lungs, liver or brain. This is breast cancer in its deadly form.
“Stage” is a label describing where in the body the cancer begins, and how much of the body outside of the breast is affected.
According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rates for stages I, II and III breast cancer are 100 percent, 93 percent and 72 percent respectively, and not all early stage breast cancers will advance to stage IV.
You can read more about breast cancer staging here.
If you are passionate about finding a cure for breast cancer, you likely have donated money or raced for the cure.
The camaraderie of survivors and loved ones of survivors, the women in pink, and the pink ribbon-festooned products, have raised awareness about breast cancer and brought it into everyday conversation.
But very little of the money raised goes towards the breast cancer that will kill you.
To get specific, the Nation Cancer Institute reports that of the $4.9 billion dollars raised annually for cancer research, only $559.2 million went specifically to breast cancer research.
Of all the money allocated to breast cancer research, a mere 5 percent of that goes specifically towards research for metastatic breast cancer, according to The European Journal of Cancer.
In a recent Huffington Post article, Barbara Jacoby painted a rosier, albeit scientifically unsupported, picture of the state of stage IV breast cancer research.
The gist of Jacoby’s argument, that breast cancer research put towards prevention and early diagnosis benefits patients at every stage, doesn’t stand up to the evidence.
Sharon Begley and Janet Roberts, reporting for Reuters said, “ . . . a number of recent studies concluded that screening mammography makes a small difference, if any, on mortality, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening mammography every two years for women 50 to 74, rather than annually, and having a first mammogram at 50 rather than 40.”
The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network responded to Jacoby’s arguments with an incisive, point-by point-rebuttal here.
MBCN wrote, “Breast cancer is an extremely complex disease. Some breast cancers will never become life threatening, even without treatment. And many others will metastasize, sometimes many years out, even when caught early. Some cancers are so aggressive that current treatments are ineffective, no matter how early the cancer is detected.”
Essentially, the idea that awareness and early detection, in and of themselves, will prevent metastatic breast cancer is a myth.
“Forty thousand people lose their lives to breast cancer every year in this country. Those of us living with this disease live our lives in three-month increments as we wait for results from scans that tell us whether our current treatment is working or that we've run out of options. We need more options, and quickly.”
Give that pink ribbon some teeth by making a donation guaranteed to support grants for metastatic breast cancer research, here. One hundred percent of your donation will go towards ending stage IV, and allowing women with metastatic breast cancer to hope for more than three months at a time.
Metavivor.org. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
Breast Cancer Stages. NationalBreastCancer.org. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
What Are We Doing About Metastatic Breast Cancer: MBCN Responds to HuffPo’s Barbara Jacoby. MCBNBuzz.wordpress.com. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
Twenty five year follow-up for breast cancer incidence and mortality of the Canadian National Breast Screening Study: randomised screening trial. BMG.com. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Breast Cancer. SEER.Cancer.gov. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
Breast Cancer Survival Rates by Stage. cancer.org. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
Insight: Komen charity under microscope for funding, science. reuters.com. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
Only 5 percent of cancer research funds are spent on metastases, yet it kills 90 percent of all cancer patients. ScienceDaily.com Retrieved January 13, 2015.
Reviewed January 13, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith