Every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one day is marked as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. This year, that day is today – October 13 – and a perfect opportunity to learn the facts and increase awareness for advanced breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer, or MBC, is cancer that has spread from its initial site to other parts of the body, most commonly the bones, liver, lungs and brain. This happens when cancer cells invade the immune system and make their way to different areas of the body through the blood and/or lymphatic system.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for MBC, but physicians like Simran Elder, MD, Medical Director of the High Risk Breast Clinic at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, are able to treat women and men with MBC to help them live longer and control symptoms.
“We individualize treatment for patients depending on how they feel, medical history and if they received breast cancer treatment in the past,” said Dr. Elder. “Treatment plans often consist of chemotherapy with or without targeting of certain cell markers, therapy targeted against estrogen or its receptors, as well as other options.”
Some MBC patients first come to Dr. Elder with metastatic cancer, but most have a previous breast cancer diagnosis. Anyone who has been treated for breast cancer can end up with MBC at no fault of their own. Many times, patients take all the necessary precautions and follow their physician’s recommendations for treatment, but the cancer still metastasizes. In fact, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network estimates that 20 to 30 percent of women initially diagnosed with early stage cancer will be diagnosed with MBC.
Dr. Elder not only helps patients identify their best treatment plan, but she also provides support and encouragement.
“It’s important to stay as active as possible and ask for help from your medical team, family and friends when needed,” said Dr. Elder. “Use your medical team as a resource to answer questions and bring up concerns. Do not be afraid to express if you have pain or other symptoms that need to be addressed.”
Although early detection and lifestyle changes may not ultimately prevent breast cancer, it is our best defense against the disease.
To help lower your general risk for breast cancer, consider the following:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Strive to keep your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25.
- Get regular exercise. The American Heart Association recommends adults exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
- Eat a healthy diet. Include a good mix of vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.
- Limit alcohol intake. The American Cancer Society recommends no alcohol, or to limit intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
- Quit smoking. To kick your habit once and for all, consider enrolling in a smoking cessation class.
Another important step is getting regular screenings. For individuals 20 to 39 years of age, the American College of Radiology suggests a clinical breast exam every three years and monthly breast self-examinations. Those age 40 and older should have an annual mammogram, annual clinical breast exam and conduct monthly breast self-examinations.
The High Risk Breast Clinic at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission offers specialized care for individuals with an increased risk of breast cancer due to family history or specific breast cancer risk factors. Patients can be referred to the clinic by their primary care provider or OB/Gyn, or you can schedule an appointment on your own without a referral by calling 913-632-9100. To learn more, visit BreastHealthKC.com.