How Long am I Going to Live With my Metastatic Breast Cancer?

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Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is a disease that is essentially incurable.  Women with MBC are given chemotherapy at some stage of their illness to extend their lives.  When starting chemotherapy for MBC, most women would like to know how the treatment will affect their life expectancy. 

A new study published in December issue of Journal of Clinical Oncology should provide the answer to this important question.  The study analyzed and reported the average survival of 13,083 MBC patients involved in 36 randomized clinical trials under best-case, average and worst case scenarios. 

The analysis found that the median overall survival for metastatic breast cancer patients was 21.7 months while the length of time during and after treatment in which a patient is living with a disease that does not get worse was 7.6 months.  

The overall survival under different scenarios was listed below: 

  Overall survival
Best case 55.8 months
Upper-typical 36.2 months
Lower-typical 11.9 months
Wosrt case 6.3 months

The survival was longer in women who have estrogen receptor-positive tumors (P=0.001) and women with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive (HER-2) tumors (P= 0.001). 

Readers, however, are reminded that mind matters most.  I have seen friends, who have strong will and have solid social support, are able to live longer than the time period reported in the literature.   For example, a friend of mine, who was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma 7 years ago, is still living today. 

Source: J Clin Oncol 29:456-463, 2010

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