Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC)

It is estimated that over 20,000 people across Australia will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2020. Of those, around 170 will be men. About 55 people every day will be given this challenging diagnosis*. Of all those diagnosed with early stage Breast Cancer, a significant number will go on to develop Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC).

Between 2014 and 2018, 45 cases of MBC were diagnosed in Greater Geelong, representing 4.7% of all breast cancer cases in the region**.

Metastatic, Advanced, Secondary and Stage 4 Breast Cancer all refer to the spread of the primary breast tumour to another part or parts of the body. MBC is treatable, but not curable. While recent research has delivered new treatments for MBC, increasing life expectancy so that it can be managed as a chronic illness, there remain many challenges for people living with MBC.

Because MBC may effect different organs, symptoms vary considerably, sometimes leading to misdiagnosis and lengthy periods of investigation before MBC is confirmed. Conversely, some people are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and metastatic disease at the same time. This is called DeNovo MBC.

MBC commonly presents in bones, lungs, liver or brain, but can effect other organs, including skin. It may affect one organ, or multiple organs simultaneously. Wherever it occurs in the body, because MBC is the spread of a primary breast tumour, it is still treated as breast cancer.

MBC also varies according to hormone status of tumours. Treatments are tailored to suit each type and each presentation of disease. In common for all those with MBC, however, are the frequent regular appointments, tests and scans to assess disease progress.

This is a lifetime experience – although those with MBC may indeed die from some other cause, MBC will be present until death.

MBC has an enormous impact on those diagnosed, as well as on their family, friends and colleagues. Support for those living with MBC is an essential part of managing the many challenges.

* Breast Cancer Network Australia
** Victorian Cancer Registry
For more information, see Breast Cancer Network Australia and Cancer Council Vic.