Majority of Irish women do not know about metastatic breast cancer

A new report entitled A Story Half Told, which looks at the extent of misconceptions around metastatic breast cancer (mBC ), has been launched by a group of leading experts. Survey results outlined in the report reveal that 95 per cent of women in Ireland believe breast cancer can be cured if it’s caught and treated early.

However, early detection does not help survival for metastatic breast cancer patients - average survival for women with metastatic breast cancer is 2-3 years.

The survey was commissioned by Pfizer as part of the A Story Half Told campaign. The campaign was launched in conjunction with Ireland’s leading cancer support groups - Europa Donna Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, and the Marie Keating Foundation - and aims to highlight the extent of misconceptions surrounding the most advanced stage of breast cancer, and the need to widen the conversation around breast cancer to include metastatic breast cancer.

The new results show that a quarter of Irish women have not heard of metastatic breast cancer, despite the fact that general familiarity with breast cancer is high in Ireland at 49 per cent.

Almost one in four have heard of mBC but don’t know what it means. Six in 10 Irish women think breast cancer receives a lot of public attention – but 70 per cent say metastatic breast cancer receives little to no attention.

According to Professor John Crown, consultant medical oncologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital Dublin: “Metastatic breast cancer is a common, treatable, life-threatening, life-limiting illness. The needs of patients with metastatic breast cancer are distinct from those of patients with early stage breast cancer. Improved treatment is resulting in longer survival and improved quality of life.”

Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, in which the disease has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body. Despite advances in the treatment of breast cancer, approximately 30 per cent of women initially diagnosed with earlier stages of breast cancer eventually develop recurrent advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

Early detection does not help survival for metastatic breast cancer patients and average survival is only 2-3 years – although many women can live for much longer.

“As many as 1,500 to 2,000 people in Ireland are living with mBC at any one time,” said Tara Byrne of Europa Donna Ireland.

“The experiences and knowledge of those living with mBC are rarely spoken about. Europa Donna Ireland want to build a safe community where people with mBC can connect with each other to find support and share experiences.”

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