The Breast Cancer Problem We Don't Talk About

If you didn't already know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the arrival of the ubiquitous pink ribbons and apparel will remind you soon enough. But this year, Refinery29 is asking you to go beyond the pink ribbon and join us in changing the conversation.

As great as early detection is, it's not the whole story. Every year, 40,000 people die of breast cancer, and virtually all of these deaths are caused by stage 4, or metastatic, breast cancer.

In order to challenge mainstream perceptions of the disease, Refinery29 is partnering with #Cancerland for an entire month of coverage devoted to focusing our efforts on the stories of women affected by terminal breast cancer. Our kickoff event, R29 Dialogue: Stage IV, happened live on Facebook yesterday. And ICYMI, you can watch it above.

More about our panelists:

Joy, who herself is a metastatic breast cancer patient, founded #Cancerland in order to help others navigate their breast cancer diagnoses and treatments — and to change the fact that out of the billions raised for breast cancer research, as little as 2% to 7% of the funds goes toward investigating metastatic disease. Visit her website and donate directly here.

Maggie Kudirka (a.k.a Bald Ballerina) is a ballet dancer who was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at the age of 23. Now 25, Kudirka is working to make people aware that breast cancer can strike at any age, and that the challenges of living with breast cancer are huge and shouldn't be ignored.

Along with Kudirka's and Joy's personal perspectives, the panel was also rounded out by Joy's medical oncologist, Neal Fischbach, MD, at Yale New Haven Hospital; Elizabeth Comen, MD, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering; and Deborah Axelrod, MD, a surgical oncologist at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

By the end of the discussion, we came away feeling both educated and incredibly frustrated about what's being done (or, more importantly, what's not being done) about stage 4 breast cancer. More than that, however, we felt inspired to take action. We hope you will, too.

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