The Reality of Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Closer Look

Every October, the pink wave of breast cancer awareness comes crashing in.  While many individuals, fundraisers, & companies mean well, we’ve lost sight of the purpose & meaning behind Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This pink wave glosses over the fact that breast cancer kills more than 43,000 women every year.  

Meanwhile, metastatic breast cancer (the breast cancer that kills) receives so little attention, research focus, & funding.  And this changes little, year to year.

Let’s get into it.

Metastatic Breast Cancer overview

Metastatic breast cancer (mBC) is breast cancer that has spread distantly from the original tumor site.  mBC commonly spreads via the lymphatic system or the bloodstream.

Listen to Ep. 208 – What Most People Don’t Know About Metastatic Breast Cancer

Fast Facts on Metastatic Breast Cancer:

  • The 5-year relative survival rate for patients diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer is 31% (
  • The 10 year survival rate is about 11%

According to, about 30% of patients with early stage breast cancer will have their cancer recur as metastatic breast cancer.  These recurrences can occur months to years after “successful” breast cancer treatment.  

Since metastatic breast cancer has spread distantly from the point of origin, it’s much harder to treat.  In fact, patients with metastatic breast cancer have limited treatment options, & treatment usually focuses on managing symptoms & prolonging life expectancy.

There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer.

What can we do (2023 update):

Part of why metastatic breast cancer is so underfunded, so poorly understood, & so problematic is the oversexualization of breast cancer.  Breasts are sexy, breast cancer is pink, & nobody likes to think about breasts killing somebody.  

However, here we are, in 2023 with still no cure for metastatic breast cancer in a world where companies & corporations “go pink” every October as a PR campaign.

Final salt in the wound: only about 5% of all funding for breast cancer research goes towards metastatic breast cancer research.

So as the US pinks out yet again this October, make sure your time, effort, & money are supporting our breast cancer survivors who need it the most.  

Ask the necessary questions of organizations/causes you support:

  • What organizations are you supporting who are “going pink”?
  • What percentage of money is going to support breast cancer research?
  • Are you supporting metastatic breast cancer research?  With what?

Fort Worth Cancer Care’s Action Letter

Until next time, this is Elise with TheOncoPT. And remember: you are exactly the physical therapist that your patients with cancer need. So let’s get to work.

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