Buddy Check 7: Living with metastatic breast cancer

Buddy Check 7: Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer
Updated: Aug. 7, 2021 at 12:00 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - There are many different types of breast cancer. Perhaps the most difficult diagnosis for a doctor to deliver is metastatic. For oncologist Dr. Seth Fagbemi his mission is to offer optimism while offering the best treatment possible.

Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread to another part of the body; most commonly, the liver, brain, bones, or lungs. There is no cure.

According to Dr. Fagbemi, only about 5% of women have metastatic breast cancer when they are first diagnosed. The other cases are patients who at one time already had cancer that was localized, treated, and then became metastatic. According to, nearly 30% of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will develop metastatic disease. While metastatic breast cancer may not go away completely, treatment may control it for a number of years.

“Take it one day at a time. And sometimes one day becomes a week, and one week becomes a month.... a month becomes a year,” said Dr. Fagbemi.

The disease is aggressive and the symptoms of the cancer can vary depending on the location of the cancer. According to Marshfield Clinic, when breast cancer has spread to the bone, the most common symptom is a noticeable new pain. When it has metastasized to the brain, symptoms can include headaches or changes in speech and vision.

Treatment for metastatic cancer is as individual as the person itself. It can be surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, medication, and hormone therapy.

“It’s a very individual treatment. It’s a combination of what the patient wants and what is available to the patients,” explained Dr. Fagbemi.

Factors associated with an increased risk of metastatic breast cancer include a history of breast cancer or inherited genes. Most importantly, Dr. Fagbemi notes, cancer is never the patient’s fault. “It’s not because of something someone did. Breast cancer is something that happened. It’s not a lifestyle problem. It’s not a choice. It just happened,” said Dr. Fagbemi.

When it comes to prevention, Dr. Fagbeni says it’s possible. The number one thing is early detection. That means, ask questions, do a self-examination, and get a mammogram.

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