“Stage 4 breast cancer” is a diagnosis no one ever wants to hear. Early detection is often key, which is why it’s important to keep up with annual wellness checks and mammograms.
But even for women who perform regular screenings, metastatic breast cancer, or stage 4 cancer, where the cancer has spread to another part of the body, can go undetected.
That’s how it happened for Diane Blais. Blais, 55, has a family history of breast cancer. Since her mother died of the disease, she has been vigilant about going to the doctor and getting regular mammograms.
So when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in October 2014, she was shocked. “I had just had my mammogram and my physical, and nothing had shown up on those,” she says. “That’s why I said to my doctor, ‘Are you sure? Everything was fine in May. How can I go from clear in May to stage 4 in October?’”
Turns out, Blais was diagnosed with a type of breast cancer that doesn’t always appear on mammograms. It wasn’t discovered until her doctor did an ultrasound.
“Many people can live several years with metastatic breast cancer, almost turning it into a chronic disease.”
Many people can live several years with metastatic breast cancer, almost turning it into a chronic disease, says Susan Moore, MD, medical director of UNC REX Cancer Care. “The focus typically becomes more on managing the disease,” she says.
Blais received treatment at UNC REX Cancer Care in Wake County and UNC Cancer Care in Chapel Hill. She has undergone radiation and chemotherapy and is still participating in a clinical trial, which has slowed the growth of her tumor.
“I put my life in their hands, and they didn’t let me down,” Blais says. “For me, I was fortunate enough to gain a whole new appreciation of life.”
UNC Health Care offers mammography screenings and comprehensive breast services at several locations across the Triangle. Learn more about our programs at the UNC REX Comprehensive Breast Care Program in Wake County and the UNC Breast Center in Chapel Hill.