BUFFALO, N.Y. -- October 13th is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
Metastatic Breast Cancer is also known as stage four breast cancer, the most serious kind. Metastatic is when breast cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, usually several years after treatment began on a primary breast cancer. Those cells usually turn up in the lungs, bone or liver. It is not considered curable.
But still many patients can live long periods of time with current treatments. Doctors focus on quality of life, adjusting treatments so a patient can live as normal a life as possible, for as long as possible.
Sam Smith is a professional dance teacher who has owned her own studio for the past 18 years. She was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2003. But just last year, Smith was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that spread throughout her body. She says her treatments have not been too taxing, and they're working. She's grateful for that.
"The shots I am doing right now and the infusion that i'm getting have no side effects so I am able to go about my life and live it normally, ya know, as normally as possible, said Smith"
"Some women's breast cancers respond very well to treatment and they can be on treatment for many years. So although our treatment is not generally curative in its intent, many women can still survive with good quality of life for some time," said Dr. Tracey O'Connor, a breast oncologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Sam says her treatments keep changing, and she has hope.
She continues to dance and she says the support she gets from family friends help her get through.
Right now, Roswell Park Cancer Institute has a number of clinical trials underway focusing on new treatments for metastatic breast cancer that offer increased hope to patients like Sam who are living with the disease.