Battling Stage 4 Breast Cancer
- “Street Outlaws” reality TV star and race car driver Lizzy Musi, 32, just revealed her stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis after doctors dismissed a lump in her breast.
- Musi is in good spirits and plans to start chemo on Friday.
- Stage 4, or metastatic, breast cancer is hard to treat, but advancements are being made. The recent reclassification of some breast cancers as as HER2 “low,” for example, has expanded the use of current game-changing treatment options to more metastatic patients.
- For more info on advanced breast cancer treatments, check out SurvivorNet’s “Breast Cancer: Later Stage Treatment” page.
Musi has been focused on preparing for another racing season, with the 2023 season kicking off on June 2-3 at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio. But everything changed when a devastating diagnosis arrived just the other day.
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“Hey Everyone, I haven’t been able to have much time to post due to an unexpected life change,” she said in a recent Instagram post. “A few days ago I have been diagnosed with Triple Negative Stage 4 Breast Cancer that has moved to my lymph nodes to my liver.
“I have a rough journey ahead of me. I appreciate everyone’s messages and calls.”
Musi took to YouTube to explain that her cancer journey began when she found “a marble-sized lump” in her breast after breast augmentation surgery (a procedure to increase the size of the breasts, according to Mayo Clinic). When she called the place where she had her operation, they said there was likely nothing to worry about since they didn’t see anything concerning on her pre-surgery tests.
Then, she had her annual appointment with her “lady’s doctor.” She brought the lump to his attention, but he didn’t seem too concerned.
“My doctor was aware I had breast cancer in my history, but he didn’t do any test, no ultrasound, no double-up checking on it or anything,” she said. “He said, ‘All right, we’ll just keep an eye on it, and if it gets any worse then we’ll go ahead and run tests.”
Musi did not go into detail about what she meant by having “breast cancer in my history.” However, having a family history of breast cancer does increase your risk of developing the disease.
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A month later, Musi’s lump had grown from the size of a marble to the size of a “Cutie’s” clementine, so she decided to make another appointment. That’s when doctors started taking the lump seriously, and she had an ultrasound and a mammogram in the same day.
The next day, she had an “uncomfortable” biopsy taken of the lump as well as her lymph nodes, since they were swollen. She also had another mammogram.
While awaiting for results, Musi tried to return to life as normal. She was hoping for good news, but Musi knew something was seriously wrong when she received a call from her doctor, himself.
“I kinda felt numb, I didn’t know how really to act,” she said of first hearing her aggressive breast cancer diagnosis. “I was in disbelief, honestly.
“I didn’t cry which is weird.”
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After follow-up scans, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to her liver.
“I don’t how long I had this for,” she said. “The doctor finally told me it definitely has moved to my liver and at that point they called it metastatic… Stage 4 breast cancer that has moved now to the other parts of the body.”
“That was the day that I actually finally broke down.”
Musi begins treatment this week. She’s in “good spirits” right now, but she has a long journey ahead of her.
On Friday, she’ll have a liver biopsy and her first round of chemotherapy. Radiation might be in her future too, but she’ll have to take everything day by day.
Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer Like Lizzy Musi
When someone is given a stage 4, or metastatic, breast cancer diagnosis, it means their disease has spread, or metastasized, beyond the breasts to other parts of the body. Most commonly, stage four breast cancer spreads to the bones, liver and lungs, but it can also spread to the brain or other organs.
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We don’t yet have a cure for metastatic breast cancer, but that doesn’t there are no treatments available.
“Technically metastatic breast cancer is not curable, but it is highly, highly treatable, especially depending on the type of disease that a woman can have,” SurvivorNet advisor Dr. Elizabeth Comen said.
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The goal of treating advanced breast cancer is to keep the patient as stable as possible, slow tumor growth and improve quality of life, according to Dr. Comen.
Treatment options include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs and immunotherapy as well as a combination of treatments.
“I treat women day in and day out who have metastatic breast cancer, and I see the fear in their eyes, and I also see the hope in their eyes,” Dr. Comen explained.
“And I share in that hope. Why do I share in that hope? Because I have so many patients who are living with their cancer… It isn’t just about living, but living well.”
And, thankfully, advancements are being made all the time. Recently research has led to the reclassification of some breast cancers as HER2 “low.”
This might not seem like big news, but it is. The new designation has expanded the use of certain advanced breast cancer treatments for patients.
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“One of the most challenging types of cancer to treat is metastatic breast cancer,” Dr. Comen said.
“And a new treatment, an FDA approved treatment, called Enhertu or T-DXd is being used to improve the survival of patients with a new classification of metastatic breast cancer called HER2-low metastatic breast cancer.”
“So, for anybody watching if they or their loved one has metastatic breast cancer, it’s critical that they ask their doctor, ‘Do I have HER2-low breast cancer and might this be an appropriate treatment for me?”
In other words, classifying some cancers as HER2-low means more individualized, targeted treatment plans for patients.
“This drug [Enhertu] has been around for a few years, and it’s very effective in the HER2-positive population,” Dr. Julie Gralow, the chief medical office and the executive vice president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, told SurvivorNet.
“Now, however, we have a whole, huge group [HER2-low] of patients who have the potential for benefit, who we never even thought of giving HER2 targeted therapy to.”
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For more info on advanced breast cancer treatments, check out SurvivorNet’s “Breast Cancer: Later Stage Treatment” page.
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