The Doctors: What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and The Doctors welcomed back to the show Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, the Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer.
She explained that she wanted to talk about metastatic breast cancer, which is a stage of cancer that not many people know very much about. She explained that metastatic breast cancer is when the cancer cells from the primary site, which is this case is the breast, spread to other parts of the body. It could be the lymph nodes or the blood stream, and ultimately to other organs like the brain, lung, liver, or bone.
She explained that when cancer cells from the breast spread to the bone, a lot of people think that’s bone cancer but it’s not. It’s breast cancer in the bone, or metastatic breast cancer. The cancer can be treated and then you can experience recurrence, which means the cancer has come back to where it originally started.
Dr. Travis Stork explained that most deaths from breast cancer are from complications of recurrent or metastatic disease. It affects up to 250,000 people every year, and most of those are women.
The Drs TV: Noreen Fraser Battle With Metastatic Breast Cancer
A woman named Noreen was on the show to share her experience. She said that 13 years ago, she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. She had a very small tumor and had a lumpectomy. She was told there was a 96% chance it wouldn’t come back. Two years later, it came back in her bones and liver. Over the last 11 years, she has been doing different regimens of chemotherapy, going from one therapy to the other because “cancer is smart” and it “outsmarts the drugs.”
The average survival for someone with metastatic breast cancer is three years, but yet Noreen was still there. Noreen said she was very lucky to be accepted into a phase one drug study and she is taking a drug that is working and has stopped the growth of her liver metastasis. She said she’d had all the side effects of chemotherapy and was thrilled to get onto the study. She said this past May, her daughter graduated from college and she was there.
The Doctors: Fighting Metastatic Breast Cancer
She said in two years her son is going to graduate from college and she plans to be there too. Dr. Lewis-Hall wanted to know what some of the common misconceptions are about metastatic breast cancer. Noreen said people think they didn’t get the right care or they didn’t put the right amount of time or methods in place, but none of that is really true. Dr. Lewis-Hall said a recent study was done that found that exact misconception.
Another misconception found during the survey was that people believed metastatic breast cancer or advanced stage breast cancer was curable. Although early detection at any stage is really important, there’s no cure yet for metastatic breast cancer. That’s why research and clinical trials are so important.
Noreen said for those people who get their first diagnosis, get more than one opinion. Make sure you have the right doctor, and do your homework. She said to try and figure out what the new drugs are that are coming out and also make sure you get yourself into an emotional support group. Noreen created the Noreen Fraser Foundation that has raised millions of dollars toward cancer research. She was applauded for that.
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