Sunday, October 24, 2010
The M word
In cancer there are two nasty words no one wants to hear. The R word - recurrence - and the M word - metastases. The R word means it came back. The M word means it spread to other parts of your body. Quite often you get these words together as cancer often returns in another body part.
However there are some people who are diagnosed initially with metastatic cancer meaning they have a primary tumor or tumors and it is also found in other body parts. For them a cancer diagnosis is a double whammy. Not only do they have cancer, they have in multiple areas where it needs to be treated. It means (in my non medical mind) that it is in your system and you need to be treated systemically, not just locally as with an early stage cancer. And the treatment and the scrutiny will continue for the rest of their lives.
At the initial diagnosis, when cancer is found they test to see if they can find the cancer anywhere else. If they do, that's the M word.
The sad thing with metastatic cancer is that very little research is done in this area. I think the percentage of breast cancer research that focuses on metastatic breast cancer is somewhere around 4%. That is extremely low. Wouldn't it make sense that to look for not just the cause of cancer but why it spreads or returns? I have several friends who are in this boat.
Any time a person living with cancer goes back to the doctor, particularly to the oncologist, all we are thinking as well go 'no M word, no R word, no M word, no R word, no M word, no R word...' over and over again. Tell me I have a bleeding ulcer, a broken leg, degenerating back discs, gall stones, kidney stones, lymphedema, benign anything. But not the M word and not the R word and I am happy.