Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I 've been thinking a lot about cancer metastasis and women with metastatic breast and recurrent ovarian cancer.

First, the definition of metastasis is


noun, plural me·tas·ta·ses [-seez] 
Pathology .
the transference of disease-producing organisms or of
malignant or cancerous cells to other parts of the body 
by way of the blood or lymphatic vessels or membranous surfaces.
the condition produced by this.

Source: dictionary.com

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and October 13th is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. Some women on twitter, facebook and in blogs  (http://womenwcancer.blogspot.com/http://chemo-brain.blogspot.com/http://www.tamiboehmer.com/) are upset with all those pink ribbons, pink products and walks and celebrations of survivors when there are women living with metastatic disease. Women with metastatic breast cancer seem to feel forgotten.

If caught early (Stage 0-II) the five year survival rate  for breast cancer is  74-93%. ( http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/DetailedGuide/breast-cancer-survival-by-stage ) But some women are initially diagnosed with Stage IV disease where the disease has spread through the lymph system to other organs of the body and their five year survival rate is 15%. For other women their cancer returns a few years after diagnosis  and cancer cells are found in their lungs, liver,  bone or brain.  These women are living with the disease and will be in treatment for life. They are metastatic breast cancer survivors.

The number of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year is much less than the number  diagnosed with breast cancer  (  226,000 versus 25,000). Big difference.  The survival rates for stage III and stage IV ovarian cancer are 35% and 18% respectively. Not such a big difference with our late stage breast cancer sisters.  There is no screening test for ovarian cancer so  62% of all women diagnosed with the disease are diagnosed late stage.

Here is the thing, statistics show that 70-80% of women diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer ( disease beyond the ovary)  will recur. Some women will have treatment ( surgery , chemotherapy, radiation) and go into  remission. Others never go into remission. These women  live with the disease as a chronic illness, they will be in treatment for life. I know a number of women who are living with the disease today trying new chemotherapies and entering clinical trials. And for the rest of us who have recurred once or twice well we worry when our next recurrence will occur. Not so different from our metastatic breast cancer sisters.

I urge breast and ovarian cancer researchers to talk more . Yes I know there are those who research  BRCA 1 & 2 mutations and recent studies with basal cell breast cancer (http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/aggressive-breast-cancer-may-respond-to-ovarian-cancer-treatment/81247370/) . But there still may be a clue - a pathway, a gene , a protein as to why our cancer cells function as they do.

And to all those metastatic breast cancer survivors, your recurrent OC sisters are with you on the journey.

Every Day is a Blessing!

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Tami Boehmer said...

Great post, Dee! Thanks for spreading awareness. I am that 15 percent!

Servivorgirl said...

Good Post Dee