Metastatic disease is the cause of over 90% of all breast cancer deaths, but accounts for less than 3% of the current studies on breast cancer treatment. More than 30% of stage I-III breast cancer patients progress to metastatic disease (the stages of cancer refer to how far the cancer has spread, with stage I meaning that the cancer is in one spot, stage IV meaning that the cancer has spread to a location away from the original tumor and surrounding lymph tissue). Many more are initially diagnosed at stage IV. Over 40,000 people die of breast cancer every year.
Organizations such as Susan G. Komen rave on a lot about breast cancer awareness and survivorship, but awareness that metastatic breast cancer is still incurable and deadly is still dismally low. At best, we are the invisible - when we are seen at all, we are seen as the monster under the bed. At a recent meeting of metastatic patients, one gal admitted that when she went to the BC support meetings at stage 1, she had deliberately avoided the metastatic gals, feeling that somehow their disease might be caused by some contagious weakness. Most metastatic patients find this behavior to be the rule, rather than the exception.
We also find that even among our families and friends, myths and misunderstandings about our disease prevail. We find ourselves explaining again and again that we are never going to be able to stop treatment, get off the chemo, be cured.
Until a cure is found. And that event is nowhere in sight.
If we are going to find a cure for breast cancer, and an effective treatment for metastatic disease, we cannot depend on the Pink organizations, or on the standard research organizations (Big Pharma, etc). We are going to have to resort to private funding of organizations that finance innovative research.
One such organization is Metavivor, which promotes understanding of metastatic disease and funds research specifically aimed at curing metastatic breast cancer. If we are going to keep your grandmother, mom, daughter or niece from dying of this disease, organizations like Metavivor are our best bet.
Skip the sassy bracelets, the pretty pink ribbons, and the clever t-shirts. Instead, let's face the monster head-on by putting our donation dollars into research, rather than marketing. Let's get ourselves to the point where awareness will truly save lives...