Reframing metastatic breast cancer

On a cold, bright Sunday afternoon during New York Fashion Week, nearly six hundred people packed into an old building in Manhattan’s Lower East Side for an unusual lingerie show.

It was the third annual #Cancerland fashion show sponsored by the lingerie company AnaOno and METAvivor, a nonprofit organization advocating for metastatic breast cancer (MBC) research and awareness.

One reason for the need for awareness:

… data on the number of women whose cancers spread to a distant organ site, either as a progression or a recurrence after being first diagnosed with an earlier stage of breast cancer, has been lacking because U.S. registries do not routinely collect or report data on recurrence.

“The idea that we don’t know how many people are living with a particular disease in this country seems pretty backward,” patient advocate Beth Caldwell, 40, told Diane Mapes, writing for Fred Hutch.

Researchers estimated that than 150,000 women in the US were living with MBC as of January 1, 2017.

All in all, the number of women living with metastatic breast cancer increased 4 percent from 1990 to 2000 and 17 percent from 2000 to 2010. And the number is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Most women living with MBC, about 3-in-4, had initially been diagnosed with an earlier stage of breast cancer.

However, a significant percentage were diagnosed at Stage IV de novo; this means “from the start.” This means that previously undiagnosed breast cancer cells had created tumors in other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs or liver. Historically, researchers thought breast cancer developed in a linear fashion but current research casts doubt on that hypothesis.

Median relative survival time for women diagnosed at Stage IV breast cancer has increased slightly.  For women aged 15-49, between 1992-1994 and 2005-2012 survival time increased from 22.3 months to 38.7 months after diagnosis. For women diagnosed between ages 50-64, survival time increased less than a year,  from 19.1 months to 29.7 months.

Learn more from the MBC Project:


Opening quote from NPR; additional sources,,, Fred Hutch and NIH. Tweets from @MBC_Project, @ RebaHow, @TeveladyMedia

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