- Question from Jan: I have just been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer that has spread to my bones in quite a few places eight years after finishing chemo. Why isn't Stage IV metastatic breast cancer curable?
Eric Winer, M.D.
I think it's important never to say that anything is 100% incurable, but, generally speaking, metastatic breast cancer is not curable as you have said. This is because it has passed a certain point at which we no longer have treatments that are able to eradicate every last cancer cell. But—and this is a very important "but"—metastatic breast cancer can often be treated as a chronic and highly treatable illness for years and years and years.
While I fully realize that it is devastating to have a recurrence of cancer and feel that it can't be cured, one of the things to keep in mind is that having a recurrence of breast cancer eight years after diagnosis and primarily to bone is a situation where most of us would predict that you should be able to live with this for a long time. That does not even take into account potential advances that may occur over the next several years that you could take advantage of.
- Musa Mayer There is a recent study published by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas where they looked at survival of their metastatic breast cancer patients over the last 20 years. In the 1970s, only 10% survived five years after a metastatic diagnosis, while in the most recent period, 40% survived at least five years. Those are pretty significant figures for women who are facing metastatic disease. We are making progress.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Metastatic Breast Cancer featured Musa Mayer, Eric P. Winer, M.D., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about treatment and quality of life issues related to advanced (metastatic) breast cancer.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2003.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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