Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

Komen bandit Tank

Handcrafted tank top from a “Komen Bandit” demanding support for Metastatic Breast Cancer

October 13th is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, an official day of recognition to encourage all people to become more informed and aware of metastatic breast cancer.

Metastatic (Stage IV) breast cancer is cancer that has spread from where it originated to elsewhere in the body, usually the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. It is the initial diagnosis for about 5 percent of breast cancer cases each year in the United States. However, and surprising to many, 20 to 30 percent of people who were initially diagnosed with an early stage breast cancer eventually go on to develop metastatic disease. Such recurrences can happen even after there has been no evidence of disease for 15 years or longer.

Metastatic breast cancer is incurable, and treatment is life-long. Eventually, every drug that is used to slow the progression of the disease fails. Data from the National Cancer Institute shows that the five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer is still only about 20 percent, and the average prognosis is only two to four years. Nearly 40 thousand women and hundreds of men die of metastatic breast cancer every year, a number that has barely changed in four decades despite the billions of dollars raised for breast cancer.

There is little attention to metastatic breast cancer in mainstream culture. When the disease does get attention, the light usually shines on the good, strong, positive, and hopeful side of cancer, the obituary of someone who fought courageously but eventually succumbed to the disease, or the hopeful stories and reports about incremental medical advancements. But the regular story arcs of triumphant survivorship do not apply to this population of patients who do not finish treatment and seldom win the fight. As a result, there is very little understanding of the realities of this disease.

An Alliance for Metastatic Breast Cancer

A new alliance formed by fifteen cancer groups, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, plans to work “towards a time when all patients with metastatic breast cancer and their caregivers can access the care and services they need, and find real hope in research focused on prolonging their lives,” states Musa Mayer, Founder, AdvancedBC.org. The first project will be to assess gaps, duplication and opportunities in the field to reach a consensus on a path forward in addressing the unique needs of those living with metastatic breast cancer. The Alliance will issue a status report in early 2014 and also plans to advance metastatic research and public policy to address the needs of this population. The Alliance recently released a video explaining the need for the group.


Founding member organizations of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance include AdvancedBC.org, Avon Foundation for Women, Breastcancer.org, CancerCare, Cancer Support Community, Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation; Living Beyond Breast Cancer, Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, Research Advocacy Network, SHARE, Sisters Network, Susan G. Komen, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation and Young Survival Coalition.

The Alliance is funded in part by Celgene Corporation, Genentech and Pfizer.


I hope the Alliance will also address mounting concerns over the commercialization and trivialization of breast cancer, pinkwashing and profiteering, the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of corporations and breast cancer organizations alike, and concerns over the lack of attention to the diverse experiences and difficult realities of this disease.


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3 comments to Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

  • […] “Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.” By BCC founder Gayle Sulik, Pink Ribbon Blues. […]

  • Awareness about metastatic breast cancer is indeed sorely lacking. As one woman mentioned in the video, many people have not even heard of the word metastatic. After all these years of breast cancer awareness efforts, how has this “word” not been part of the awareness? How is it possible that the metastatic bc community has been ignored for so long? It makes no sense to me.

    This is why I have to be optimistic about this alliance. But I must admit, I’m also skeptical. Like you, I hope the alliance also addresses all those mounting concerns you mentioned. As always, you offer a steady and balanced look at things. Thank you for that.

  • Thank you for your comment, Nancy. Thirty years of awareness and last year was the first time a person with mets was shown in a BC advertisement. Clearly, the critiques about marginalizing this community have been heard. Whether this new alliance will foster a true collaboration and meaningful change remains to be seen. We’ll be watching. And hoping. And pressing on either way.

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

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* GAYLE IN THE MEDIA *

"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause iafrica.com

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' KCRW

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion? Salon.com

Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health? America’s Radio News Network

Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Marie Claire

Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red The Sacramento Bee

Get Your Pink Off Ottawa Citizen

Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions USA Today

** MORE MEDIA LINKS **
** MORE RADIO INTERVIEWS **