Metastatic Breast Cancer in a "Pink Ribbon World"

A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer can be frightening, but education and new treatments are helping these patients adjust to their "new normal."
BY LAUREN M. GREEN @OncNurseEditor
Research advances in the field of breast cancer have led to less aggressive treatment options and a good prognosis for women with early-stage disease, but for women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), it is a different story.

While treatable, MBC remains incurable. According to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, an estimated 150,000 women and men are living with metastatic breast cancer in the United States, and 40,000 individuals die from the disease each year—accounting for 7 percent of all US cancer deaths.

“These women can sometimes feel like they are ‘the elephant in the pink room,’” explained Margaret (Peg) Rosenzweig, Ph.D., C.R.N.P.-C., A.O.C.N., F.A.A.N., professor, Acute & Tertiary Care, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. Rosenzweig also maintains clinical practice as a nurse practitioner for women with breast cancer at the university’s cancer institute (UPCI).

“There’s that sense that nobody in the waiting room wants to know someone with metastatic disease, because it’s everyone’s worst fear,” she continued. Some may feel unwelcome in the “pink ribbon world,” because they haven’t—to use the sports analogy that comes up often for all cancer types—“beaten their cancer.”

Another issue many patients with MBC face, she added, is coping with loved ones who sometimes don’t understand why they don’t go into remission and are never done with treatment.

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