KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Advanced breast cancer, also known as stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer, used to always mean a short life expectancy. Not anymore. Many women are living years with breast cancer that’s spread to other parts of the body.
Dr. Timothy Pluard looks at his patient in the chemo chair at Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute and sees a model.
“She is essentially the model, if we can’t cure, of how we want to manage it,” Dr. Pluard said.
“The doctor before him said ‘I’m done. There’s nothing else I can do for you’,” Vicki Warren said.
But Warren wasn’t done. Incredibly, she’s lived with stage 4 breast cancer for 25 years, from age 32 to 57. The Grove, Oklahoma, woman even continued to work as a hair stylist until just a few months ago.
Over the years, the cancer has spread to many parts of her body. In August, it showed up in her brain.
“I said I’m not ready to give up. So anyway, I had 12 radiations,” Warren said.
Now she’s having chemo again. Warren thinks her survival for a quarter century has something to do with her personality.
“I’m very hardheaded. My husband — I mean, very hardheaded,” she said.
She also credits advances in treatment that, for many women, mean advanced breast cancer is now a chronic disease — a challenging one.
“It’s challenging to go through the treatment and maintain your home life, your work life, maintain your stamina,” Dr. Pluard said.
He said that’s why Saint Luke’s is opening the Koontz Center for Advanced Breast Cancer. It will utilize the latest treatments along with integrative therapies such as nutrition, exercise and massage.
“Therapies that help them improve the quality of their life, but may also have some therapeutic value as well.” the oncologist said.
“You just gotta keep on,” Warren said.
The center will open October 13th which is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.