Scouring the internet about health conditions can be overwhelming at times. You may come across a vast amount of information and have a hard time deciphering what’s fact and what’s fiction. Here are 8 myths about metastatic breast cancer that you shouldn’t believe.
1. It can’t be treated
Metastatic breast cancer often gets confused with terminal cancer. In terminal cancer, treatment is no longer effective. Instead, the treatment plan is centered around making the patient as comfortable as possible. Metastatic breast cancer, on the other hand, isn’t curable, but can be effectively treated. In fact, there are a range of treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, endocrine (hormone-blocking) therapy, targeted drugs, and immunotherapy that can improve your prognosis.
“You can’t eliminate the cancer, but you can slow down the progression of the disease,” says David Spiegel, M.D., a proessor at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, CA.
2. Treatment is the same as early-stage breast cancer
Although the same treatments may be used, the ultimate goal is not the same. In early-stage breast cancer, the goal is to eliminate all cancer cells and prevent the cancer from returning. However, in metastatic breast cancer, the goal is to manage the cancer and its side effects because there is no cure.
3. More aggressive treatment is needed
Early-stage breast cancer is actually treated more aggressively because doctors want to reduce the risk of recurrence as much as possible. Treatment for metastatic breast cancer, on the other hand, is used as long as a patient can tolerate it before doctors move onto the next treatment.
4. You didn’t get the treatment right the first time
This is completely false. Unfortunately anyone who had Stage I, II, or III breast cancer has a possibility of developing metastatic breast cancer (or Stage IV breast cancer) no matter what treatment they received. Nearly 30% of patients diagnosed with early-stage cancer will develop metastatic breast cancer at some point. “Nothing we can do can one-hundred percent guarantee the cancer won’t ever come back,” says Fauzia Riaz, M.D., clinical assistant professor of oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine.
5. Clinical trials are risky
There’s a common misconception that patients that attend clinical trials receive placebos or no treatment at all. However, Dr. Speigel says if you’re not receiving the treatment that is being tested, “you will get what is the best standard of care for the cancer you have.” Of course, there are risks, but it is completely your decision whether or not you want to participate.
6. Treatments are the same for everyone
The treatment team your medical team comes up with will be personalized for you depending on the characteristics of your cancer and how