The Breast Health Foundation shares the most frequently asked questions in their metastatic breast cancer support group, Meta Buddies.
You can listen to this article below, or by using your favourite podcast player at pod.link/buddiesforlife
What is metastatic breast cancer?
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), advanced breast cancer, or Stage 4 breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lung, bones, or brain.
What does a MBC diagnosis mean?
Once breast cancer has spread from its original site, it’s harder to treat. MBC may never go away, but treatment can control its spread. As a MBC patient, your treatment becomes chronic. You’ll always need to be on treatment. Your healthcare team will be consistently evaluating your cancer to see if your treatment is controlling it or not, and your treatment will be adjusted accordingly.
What is the treatment for MBC?
Treatment will depend on many factors such as: the biology (personality) of your cancer, where the cancer has spread, if you have had previous cancer treatments, your overall health, co-morbidities as well as your personal goals for treatment.
Depending on the above factors, you will receive any of the following: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, targeted therapy (trastuzumab, pertuzumab, CDK4 and CDK6 inhibitors), immunotherapy, and local treatments for distant areas of metastasis. While the kind of treatments you receive is an important part of living with metastatic cancer, it’s just as important that you maintain proper self-care, ensuring that your other needs, both physical and emotional, are met.
How can I take care of myself while living with MBC?
Living with MBC is challenging. Self-care practises and consistent support can assist when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Below are suggestions to take care of yourself in all aspects:
- Chat to your oncologist about complementary therapy (physiotherapy, acupuncture, reflexology, Body Stress Release) to help manage sides effects and symptoms.
- Chat to your oncologist about options for exercise. See an occupational therapist or biokineticist to devise a plan tailored to your physical needs.
- Find a support group for metastatic breast cancer survivors.
- Talk to a professional: social worker, counsellor, cancer navigator, or psychologist.
- Chat to your healthcare team about the cost of treatment and your current financial situation.
- Consult a palliative care specialist or nurse. Palliative care is manging the side effects and symptoms of any serious illness.
- Don’t forget that it’s okay to ask for help. Reach out to your friends and family.
How do I tell others about my cancer?
Dealing with an incurable illness and the side effects of its treatment is massively challenging, and sadly many people don’t understand this struggle. You’ll need to communicate and educate others, sharing over and over that the scans, blood tests and treatments will never come to end.
Different people within your community will require different levels of detail. Know and try to accept that some people will never fully understand and may say things that are hurtful.
Focus on communicating with people that will help and support you (your children’s teachers, employer, and those who have supported you).
Talking about cancer can be hard because it involves intense emotions. Sometimes it’s even harder to communicate with those closest to us. Even couples who usually communicate well may have trouble talking about cancer. Discussing a cancer diagnosis may involve topics that you don’t want to talk about with your partner. This could include sexual problems, fertility concerns, physical limitations, financial worries, and even death. If you’re battling to communicate with your partner about these things, consider involving a cancer navigator, social worker, counsellor, or spiritual leader to guide these conversations.
This article is sponsored by Accord Healthcare in the interest of education, awareness and support. The content and opinions expressed are entirely the support group’s own work and not influenced by Accord in any way.
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