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When you’re diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, your life can feel like it’s been turned upside down. One of the best ways that you can take control of the situation is to maintain an open and honest dialogue with your doctor, which will ultimately help you make the best decisions about your treatment journey and your life. But what does that look like? Many women are uncomfortable having these tough conversations, and end of life expectations can be difficult to verbalize.
We talked to an expert on metastatic breast cancer, Dr. Shayma Master Kazmi, a practicing oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, to get her advice on how patients living with metastatic breast cancer can improve communication with their doctors and health care team. Read on for the top things that you need to talk with your doctor about at your next appointment.
Setting a goal that fits your lifestyle and communicating that goal with your doctor are critical steps in each patient’s journey with metastatic breast cancer. “Do not assume that you and your doctor have the same goals for treatment,” cautions Dr. Kazmi. It’s important that you and your doctor have a clear discussion on your personal goals to ensure you’re both on the same page throughout your treatment journey. The specific goals you set with your doctor are meant to work for you and your family, and they can range from longer lifespan to symptom relief to trying to minimize the impact of side effects on your everyday life.
When setting goals as a team, your doctor may ask you some questions that are direct and uncomfortable. Don’t let that discomfort deter you from sharing your true thoughts. “There is a misconception that if you talk about incurable disease, it somehow means you can’t or won't be able to continue living your life. It’s important to discuss short-term goals such as family events or vacations, and long-term life extension goals, when working with your team,” says Dr. Kazmi.
Your Treatment Options
While metastatic breast cancer isn’t curable, it is treatable and many patients continue to live for years after being diagnosed, so identifying a treatment option that works best for you is an important part of the process. The top question that Dr. Kazmi encourages all of her patients living with metastatic breast cancer to ask is “What are my other treatment options and how effective are they?”
One treatment option that Dr. Kazmi discusses with many of her patients living with metastatic breast cancer is HALAVEN® (eribulin mesylate). HALAVEN is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, and who have already received other types of anticancer medicines after the cancer has spread. Although some women lived longer and some women did not live as long, women with metastatic breast cancer who were treated with HALAVEN in a clinical trial lived an average of 13.2 months compared with women treated with other chemotherapy or hormone therapy, who lived an average of 10.6 months. Results for each individual patient will vary. HALAVEN can cause side effects, including serious side effects that you should discuss with your doctor. For example, HALAVEN can cause low white blood cell counts (neutropenia), and numbness, tingling or pain in your hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy). This Important Safety Information is discussed in more detail below. Make sure you understand the potential benefits and risks before starting HALAVEN or any other treatment.
Throughout your experience with metastatic breast cancer, it’s important to keep in mind that this is your journey. Come to your doctor with any questions or concerns that you may have, and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions—your doctor has answers to help educate you so you can make the best decisions possible as a team.
With open and productive communication and clear goals on your side, you can feel confident in working with your team to identify the best plan for your life. According to Dr. Kazmi, “Metastatic breast cancer treatment is a marathon, not a sprint.”
For a discussion guide that you can use the next time you speak with your health care team, and to learn more about HALAVEN, a treatment for adults with metastatic breast cancer who have already received other types of anticancer medicines after the cancer has spread, visit www.Halaven.com.
This story is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a health care provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient. Experiences with treatment may vary and change over time.
Who is HALAVEN (eribulin mesylate) Injection for?
HALAVEN is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, and who have already received other types of anticancer medicines after the cancer has spread.
Important Safety Information for HALAVEN®
What safety information do I need to know about HALAVEN?
HALAVEN can cause serious side effects, including
- Low white blood cell count (neutropenia). This can lead to serious infections that could lead to death. Your health care provider will check your blood cell counts. Call your health care provider right away if you develop fever (temperature above 100.5°F), chills, cough, or burning or pain when you urinate, as any of these can be symptoms of infection
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in your hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy). Peripheral neuropathy is common with HALAVEN and sometimes can be severe. Tell your health care provider if you have new or worsening symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
- Your health care provider may delay or decrease your dose or stop treatment with HALAVEN if you have side effects
Before you receive HALAVEN, tell your health care provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you
- have liver or kidney problems
- have heart problems, including a problem called congenital long QT syndrome
- have low potassium or low magnesium in your blood
- are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. HALAVEN can harm your unborn baby. Tell your health care provider right away if you become pregnant or think you are pregnant during treatment with HALAVEN. Females who are able to become pregnant should use an effective form of birth control during treatment with HALAVEN and for at least 2 weeks after the final dose of HALAVEN and males should use an effective form of birth control when having sex with female partners who are able to become pregnant during treatment with HALAVEN and for 3½ months (14 weeks) after the final dose of HALAVEN
- are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if HALAVEN passes into your breast milk. Do not breastfeed during treatment with HALAVEN and for 2 weeks after the final dose of HALAVEN
Tell your health care provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
What are the possible side effects of HALAVEN?
HALAVEN can cause changes in your heartbeat (called QT prolongation). This can cause irregular heartbeats. Your health care provider may do heart monitoring (electrocardiogram or ECG) or blood tests during your treatment with HALAVEN to check for heart problems.
The most common side effects of HALAVEN in adults with breast cancer include low white blood cell count (neutropenia), low red blood cell count (anemia), weakness or tiredness, hair loss (alopecia), nausea, and constipation.
Your health care provider will do blood tests before and during treatment while you are taking HALAVEN.
For more information about HALAVEN, please see Full Prescribing Information.