Metastatic breast cancer is more common than we’d like to believe. Here in the United States, it is estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at one point during her lifetime, 30% or 1 in 3 of these women will go on to develop metastatic disease. That’s nearly double the chances of developing lung cancer, the number one common cancer worldwide. In the United States alone, a staggering total of about 73,000 – 86,000 women are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer each year, a number expected to increase by up to 30% over the coming years.
The sad reality each of these women must face is the poor prognosis and the alarming 5-year survival rate. The 5-year survival rate basically translates to the percentage of women that live at least 5 years after they have been diagnosed. The combined 5-year survival rate for all stages of breast cancer is up to 90%, which sounds great, so 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer make it past 5 years. However, when we zoom in to specifically look at the 5-year survival rate for women suffering with metastatic disease, this value drastically decreases to 28%. Despite this poor prognosis, a small, yet very valuable percentage of women do survive past 10 years. Thanks to the significant advancement in treatment, up to 11% of women under 64 years old survived up to 10 years, truly highlighting the significant impact research has on each patient’s life.
Despite advancements in treatment, a clear difference in survival rates exists across different racial and socioeconomic groups. Although the number of cases is very similar between black and white women, black women have a 45% higher death rate from metastatic breast cancer than white women. This imbalance stems from inequality in factors such as access to proper health care, being under or uninsured and overall life quality. To minimize this gap, greater efforts are needed towards ending racial inequality and expanding the participation of black women in upcoming research.
Even with these published statistics, only 2% of breast cancer research funding is allocated to MBC research. In other words, for every 1 million dollars, only 20,000 dollars is made available for metastatic breast cancer research. If with this limited funding, some impactful progress has been made, imagine the benefits if research was more fairly funded.