What Oncology Nurses Need to Know About Metastatic Breast Cancer

By Cecilia Brown, Christine McGinn, MSN, APRN, ACNP-BC - Last Updated: November 11, 2023

Christine McGinn, MSN, APRN, ACNP-BC, of Lifespan, discusses what oncology nurses should know about metastatic breast cancer. Ms. McGinn gave a presentation on improving outcomes for women with metastatic breast cancer during JADPRO 2023, the Annual APSHO Meeting.

“The hope and purpose of treatment in the metastatic setting is to control the disease and to lessen the impact of symptoms,” Ms. McGinn said. It’s important to understand that there are many types of breast cancer,” she continued, as certain treatments are tailored to certain forms of breast cancer. “I think that’s a really important thing for people to learn and take home,” she said.

Ms. McGinn explained the signs and symptoms of metastasis that providers should recognize in patients with breast cancer. One example is bone pain, which is “very different than joint pain,” she said, noting that patients often feel pain in their hips, ribs, or back.

“Cancer cells like to go to where the bone marrow is, and those are usually the places that people complain of pain,” Ms. McGinn said.

Ms. McGinn also discussed what oncology nurses should know about treatment options for metastatic breast cancer, emphasizing the importance of tailoring care to a given patient.

“Things in breast cancer are evolving really quickly and it makes it hard sometimes to keep up with all these updates,” Ms. McGinn said. “One thing I think is really important is how we’re using biomarkers to select agents for patients. We’re moving, as a whole, to a more personalized care plan for individuals. Understanding what types of targets are present in that patient can help us tailor therapy better for our patients and allow us to improve outcomes overall, but also lower toxicity while we do that.”

Ms. McGinn highlighted the improvements she has seen in metastatic breast cancer outcomes and the critical treatment considerations that come with these improved outcomes.

“The great news is patients with metastatic breast cancer are living longer, so minimizing side effects and maintaining their quality of life is very, very important,” Ms. McGinn concluded.

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