Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), or stage IV breast cancer, is cancer that started in the breast and spread to another part of the body. It can cause death, although treatment options have improved in recent years, and many people are able to live a number of years comfortably after an MBC diagnosis. Wilmot Cancer Institute breast cancer expert Dr. Alissa Huston shares these tips for coping with MBC.
Try not to overthink it: Get educated but don’t focus too much on statistics. In this age of the internet, there is more information available at our fingertips than ever. While reading about MBC can be informative, it’s possible to overdo it. Statistics can be overwhelming and MBC is so individualized that they may not apply to you.
If you do read about MBC, it’s important to talk with your provider about what you’ve read. He or she can offer context for the information you’ve found based on your specific situation.
Build a support team: Family members and friends can be a good place to start, but there are many other additional resources available. Comprehensive Breast Care at Pluta has two social workers dedicated to helping both patients and their families, including providing assistance with talking to kids about a cancer diagnosis.
Some people find that talking to someone else who’s been diagnosed with MBC can be very helpful, and the Rochester community has resources that allow MBC patients to meet others who are in a similar situation. The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester is a great resource, as is Gilda’s Club of Rochester. Both have support groups specific to MBC, with one-on-one as well as larger group opportunities.
Look out for yourself: Take care of yourself and your health, both emotionally and physically. Maintaining a healthy diet is important, and our monthly Cooking for Wellness class that takes place at Gilda’s Club is helpful for many who want to learn to cook healthier meals. Talk to your doctor about physical activity, too, as being active is a key component to maintaining your health. Regular exercise can help with the fatigue that can develop from some cancer treatments.
Consider practices like yoga, tai chi or massage that may help in managing side effects and maintaining quality of life. There are yoga classes throughout the community (offered through the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester and at Wilmot’s Pluta Cancer Center) tailored to people with cancer. Additionally, the Livestrong Program offered through the YMCA helps cancer survivors increase physical activity, decrease fatigue and improve overall quality of life.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, reflect and determine what’s most important to you. It’s not easy to live without knowing if your time left will be short or long, but living intentionally and spending time focusing on what you love and enjoy most can help you make the most of life.