More than 236,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Among those women are mothers, sisters, and friends—people we look up to and strive to support. But knowing what to say or do for someone who’s sick can be challenging, especially when they’re suffering from a late-stage diagnosis like stage 4 breast cancer.
Also called metastatic breast cancer, stage 4 breast cancer accounts for about 6 to 10% of all new breast cancer cases, which means most people with metastatic breast cancer are initially diagnosed at earlier stages of the disease. Around 150,000 American women are currently living with metastatic breast cancer, which reaches stage 4 when it spreads to the bones or other organs in the body.
Metastatic breast cancer (or MBC) is fatal, but the diagnosis isn’t a hopeless one. In fact, a recent study conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that there are more women living with MBC than ever before. Though that may sound like a bad thing, it actually means patients are living longer with the disease, thanks to improvements in treatment.
We reached out to charity Ford Warriors in Pink’s Models of Courage program and the National Breast Cancer Foundation to connect with women facing the late-stage disease. Here, seven women with metastatic breast cancer open up about the things they wish others knew about the illness and offer advice about the best ways we can support people who have it.