The terminology around cancer can be confusing, and no more so than for Stage IV cancer. The terms ‘secondary’, ‘advanced’ and ‘metastatic’ seem to be used fairly interchangeably, along with ‘Stage IV’ and ‘incurable’, and sometimes ‘terminal cancer’.
Does the terminology matter?
Different terms may be used more frequently in different countries and healthcare settings, and users may not be aware of the nuances, so use them all interchangeably:
- Metastasis means that cancer spreads to a different body part from where it started.
- Secondary means that cell structure is similar to the original/primary tumour, but has created a ‘secondary site’ with a new tumour.
- Advanced cancer can mean locally advanced (spread to lymph nodes, but curable), or advanced beyond the primary tumour site, and incurable.
- Cancer is defined in Stages I to IV, there is no Stage V
Incurable vs Terminal Cancer?
Many of us are living with ‘incurable cancer’, undergoing regular scans to determine if our tumours are ‘sleeping’ or ‘on the move’. Most of us are #BusyLivingWithMets, seeking to manage the side effects of ongoing treatment, many of us working, whilst making the most of the life we still have.
We do know that this disease is the thing that is almost certain to kill us, but typically few use the label ‘terminal’ until an endpoint has been advised by the oncologist.
Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day
Tomorrow is Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day (created in the USA in 2009), within Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Look out for a press release on this blog at 00:15 on 13th October, to see more about the #IAmThe31 campaign, and how you can help us share the message, across the social media platforms: