Within the sea of pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there is a wealth of information about early diagnosis, the newest treatments, and how to find support for a loved one who might be affected by the disease. While this information is critical, it is equally important that we recognize the 155,000 people living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), the most advanced form of the disease. MBC is when the cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body such as the brain or the bones. It is important that MBC patients receive information relevant to them and that they are empowered to take an active role in their treatment in order to receive the best possible care.
Fortunately, patient advocacy groups, along with educational programs such as AstraZeneca’s Beyond Pink, offer education and support specifically for the unique needs of MBC patients and their loved ones. These groups help MBC patients and their families better understand what MBC is and provide education that aids in making informed decisions.
An important part of this decision-making is knowing the status of your tumor. Tumor testing – testing to understand whether your tumor is hormone receptor-positive or negative and whether it expresses too much of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) protein – is particularly important for those with MBC. For these patients, knowing the tumor status may help determine how their cancer is treated as some treatments are designed to treat certain types of tumors. Additionally, it is important that patients discuss with their physician the need to retest their tumor as the status of the tumor can change over time. Some patients may also want to discuss with their doctor the possibility of genetic testing to learn if their cancer was caused by an inherited genetic mutation.
“Risk factors of an inherited genetic mutation may include triple-negative breast cancer, cancer in both breasts, multiple cancers in the family, including breast and ovarian cancers, cases of male breast cancer and Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity, although some people with an inherited mutation may not have a family history,” said Dr. Sue Friedman, Founder and Executive Director of Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE). “For those considered at risk of an inherited genetic mutation, it is important to discuss your options with a genetics expert to determine if testing is right for you, as knowing your BRCA status plays an important role in determining the best treatment path.”
“A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is scary, and people naturally have a lot of questions,” said Jean Sachs, Chief Executive Officer of LBBC. “MBC patients are likely to be on treatment for the rest of their lives, so it’s important that they receive accurate and complete information and find a community to help them navigate their journey. It is also important for patients to be their own advocate and take an active role in their treatment by asking questions and communicating with their health care team.”
Resources to help you play an active role in your treatment decisions can be found on the Beyond Pink: Sharing Our Metastatic Breast Cancer Story campaign website. Since its inception in 2015, the Beyond Pink campaign has developed a variety of tools to help support people living with MBC, as well as their caregivers. Additionally, the Beyond Pink Experience Center has hosted events throughout the US to help broaden the breast cancer conversation through education and patient experience. To date, we’ve welcomed more than 4,700 people to the Beyond Pink Experience Center at local events and look forward to continuing to reach the MBC community in the year ahead.
Throughout October, support those living with MBC by using the #BeyondPink and #NBCAM hashtags on Twitter and Facebook and visiting LifeBeyondPink.com.