Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer

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breast-cancerMost of us are aware of the latest breast cancer screenings and public campaigns aimed towards promoting breast cancer awareness to the public. However, HEALTH learns about the less known side of advanced breast cancer or Metastatic Breast Cancer (mBC) and its impact on the women suffering from it.

Explained

mBC is the most advanced stage of breast cancer and is basically a stage in which the cancer has spread beyond the breasts to other parts of the body such as the bones, liver, brain, and lungs. In the MENA region especially, a high proportion of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage.


Patient Isolation

There is still multiple misconceptions around mBC considering the lack of conversation around it compared to the attention, advocacy, and policy focus on the early stages of breast cancer. And often times, it is this very lack of awareness around mBC that has left many patients feeling isolated and marginalized. Moreover, the diagnosis of mBC has shown to have a huge psychological
and emotional impact on women and their families. Many surveys, such as the Canadian Breast Cancer Networks, reflected that many patients start to experience anxiety, isolation, and depression due to their diagnosis. In fact, one of the biggest fears that women with mBC have is the impact that this disease will have on their family members, as most women with mBC are over 50 and are
caregivers for children and/or other family members.

Creating Awareness

One of the most significant challenges ahead in addressing the needs of women with mBC is the need to create greater public awareness. It is essential that people know mBC as the most advanced
stage of breast cancer, and is different from the earlier stages of breast cancer. Heightened awareness will generate and encourage conversation along with support on how to live with mBC on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, culturally sensitive information is also important in helping women feel a greater sense of control and strength.

Emotional Support

While not all women with mBC have a negative outlook on life, many women experience heightened fear, isolation, and depression. Therefore, more resources for psychological counseling and support, including awareness on existing support services are needed. Also, improved patient-doctor communication is also required to aid women in gaining a sense of higher control over their
condition.

(Feature provided by ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, Dubai and all references available upon request)

Metastatic Breast Cancer prevalence in the UAE
• According to WHO, there are about 600 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed every year in UAE. About 15 percent of these cases are metastatic at first presentation:  90 cases every year. And around 30 percent of women diagnosed and treated at early stages may experience disease recurrence in the following couple of years and become metastatic breast cancer patients.

• Greater awareness on breast cancer for early detection has definitely led to more women diagnosed at early stages. However, about 15 percent of the patients are still diagnosed at advanced  stages and disease recurrence remains inevitable.

(Credit: www. haad.ae)

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