Advanced Stage Breast Cancer: When Palliative Care and Hospice Can Help

A message from Steve Cone, Capital Caring Health’s Chief of Marketing, Communications, and Philanthropy

Yes, Men Get Breast Cancer and Have a Higher Mortality Rate than Women

Every October rings in Breast Cancer Awareness Month which is all to the good except men rarely get mentioned. Having had breast cancer twice, I like to remind my male friends they should check themselves as well.

It is true that more than 250,000 women each year in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer and only 1,500-2,000 men. But because men never think about the possibility – they have a much higher death rate since they usually don’t discover their cancer until it’s too late.

It’s time we all realize that men die of breast cancer at a much higher rate than women because we get no mention in breast cancer activities each October. Remind the men in your life – especially 60 years and older – that they should check themselves periodically. That will save lives.

-Steve Cone

It’s been more than three decades since the first Breast Cancer Awareness Month—October 1985—threatened to make pink the new orange. In a month devoted to jack-o’-lanterns, costumed pets and pumpkin spice everything, this national health campaign remains devoted to a serious cause with real and often deadly effects.

Of course, modern medicine has made tremendous progress in the fight against breast cancer in the intervening years. Women facing the disease today have more options—and better outcomes—than ever before. The five-year survival rate is nearly 90 percent; the number of breast cancer survivors nationwide currently exceeds 3.5 million.

That’s the good news for the estimated 276,600 people who will learn they have breast cancer over the next 12 months.

But unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. Breast cancer stubbornly remains one of the most common causes of cancer – and the #2 cause of cancer-related deaths – among American women.

While today’s potent medical treatments can slow or even cure many breast cancers, they often come with unintended, yet frequently debilitating, side effects. And some, called late term effects, may not even appear until years after treatment. The National Cancer Institute reports that nearly 80 percent of patients with advanced-stage cancers develop moderate to severe pain that reduces both their ability to function normally and their quality of life. And for some patients, there may come a time when treatments designed to cure breast cancer simply stop working.

That’s when Capital Caring Health can help.

For more than 40 years now, we have provided compassionate palliative and hospice care to persons with advanced illnesses in all of DC’s Counties,  Northern Virginia’s Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Fauquier Counties, and Maryland’s Prince George’s, Montgomery, and Howard Counties. Our teams of health professionals deliver specialized medical care and services directly to you, in the comfort and convenience of your own home. In fact, nearly 95 percent of Capital Caring Health’s patients are treated right where they live, improving quality of life for both patient and family.

For patients of any age, both palliative and hospice care can relieve the symptoms, side effects of treatment, and stress of chronic progressive diseases. Our two special pain clinics – unique in the area – offer advanced diagnostic technology for precision pain management including therapy for lymphedema that may occur from treatment for breast cancer. Our services can also help patients and families who are “just” trying to cope with breast cancer, day in and day out.

Palliative care is available at any point along an illnesses’ path, including during active treatment. Families may want to consider hospice care during the later stages of illness, particularly when treatments expected to cure or curb the disease’s progress are no longer working, reducing the patient’s life expectancy to six months or less.

Both approaches can help patients and loved ones manage:

  • Pain
  • Swelling in the arm (Lymphedema)
  • Skin irritation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Emotional distress
  • Confusion about what to expect in the weeks and months ahead

There are other benefits to advanced illness and hospice care, as well. Through Capital Caring Health’s emotional, psychologic and spiritual support, many patients are better able to focus on what is really important to them when they are seriously ill or in the late stages of life. Studies also demonstrate that hospice can reduce Emergency Department visits, inpatient hospitalizations and the anxiety associated with each, while improving—and sometimes, even extending—life.

So, if side effects from breast cancer treatments are disrupting or limiting your quality of life, or if your end-stage therapies have lost their effectiveness, we’re here for you. Don’t wait to get the experienced help and support you need and deserve. Call Capital Caring Health at 800-869-2136 today.

Reach out to one of our care experts today.