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Top 10 best practices for people with metastatic breast cancer

Prolonged survival, effective management of symptoms and the best possible quality of life are the goals of a new national Statement launched today by Cancer Australia for people living with metastatic breast cancer.

The Cancer Australia Statement: Influencing best practice in metastatic breast cancer lists 10 practices (appropriate and inappropriate) to influence and enhance best practice metastatic breast cancer care across Australia. 

It is estimated that more than 19,500 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia in 2019  and approximately 5% will be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Some people who have early breast cancer at diagnosis will have a recurrence that is metastatic. However, exact statistics on people with metastatic breast cancer in Australia are not currently available.

“Cancer Australia is committed to improving outcomes for people with cancer, reducing the impact of cancer and addressing disparities. The release of the Statement highlights the importance of helping people with metastatic breast cancer to live as well and fully as possible,” said Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO Cancer Australia.

People with metastatic breast cancer can face a number of emotional, physical and practical challenges specific to their advanced disease. Issues include managing symptoms of metastatic disease and its treatment, adjusting to living with metastatic breast cancer and coping with concerns about facing an uncertain future.

Although many people with metastatic breast cancer are living longer, current treatments are generally not curative. The main treatment goals for metastatic breast cancer are to effectively manage symptoms and optimise quality of life, as well as to prolong survival.

The Statement reinforces the critical role of the multidisciplinary team in the management of people with metastatic breast cancer, as well as the importance of two-way communication that is timely, sensitive and culturally safe, and a patient-centred individualised approach to cancer care.

It highlights the importance of early access to appropriate supportive and palliative care while also drawing attention to specific issues, such as pain management and use of appropriate radiotherapy and surgical techniques for treatment of metastases.

The Statement aims to help avoid treatments that may not provide meaningful benefit or may cause harm, and to support people with metastatic breast cancer to participate in shared decision-making about treatment and care that is right for them.

“I urge patients and health professionals to participate actively in conversations around the key practices, which will help make evidence-informed decisions about care for the best possible quality of life,” said Professor Keefe.

Cancer Australia took an evidence-based and collaborative approach with key stakeholders, including leading relevant clinical, cancer and consumer organisations such as Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) in the development of the Statement.

“For some time metastatic breast cancer patients have felt like the forgotten sector of the breast cancer world. BCNA is very proud to have played a role in developing the Statement, which will help to ensure all Australians diagnosed with breast cancer have access to the best treatment and care,” said Kirsten Pilatti, CEO, BCNA.

The web-based Statement resource is supported by videos on appropriate practices.