A Breast Cancer Warrior with Positivity to Share
- TikTok star Bella J. (@breastbellaofficial) is a 33-year-old stage 4 breast cancer warrior who has undergone 22 surgeries to treat the disease.
- She frequently posts videos of her confidently showing her post-mastectomy chest with inspirational messages of hope.
- Nailing down the exact type of breast cancer requires looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor. This can help determine the most beneficial treatment options.
- The Oncotype DX test is a genetic test that profiles the tumors of women who have early-stage hormone receptor-positive, HER2 negative breast cancer in order to determine if a woman would be able to go through chemotherapy and avoid serious side effects.
- Metastatic, or stage 4, breast cancer is technically not curable, but with ongoing advancements in treatments and options to dramatically reduce symptoms, there are many reasons to be hopeful.
Bella, @breastbellaofficial on TikTok, is an exuberant cancer warrior dedicated to sharing her story on social media. The 33-year-old often posts videos of her confidently showing her post-mastectomy chest on TikTok for her nearly 230,000 followers, and says her scars “help tell her story.”Read More
“A lot of us women are sticking together and helping each other through this journey of being this new look,” Cuozzo previously told SurvivorNet. “We’re trying to make it so that it’s not this stigma.”
On top of being chock-full of body positivity, Bella J is also an avid exerciser who loves to share her fitness progression.
@breastbellaofficialCancer can take a ##hike today ##SaveIt4TheEndZone ##myfinALLYmoment ##breastcancerstrong ##foryou ##gym ##workout♬ Glorious (feat. Skylar Grey) – Macklemore
“People ask where I get my motivation,” she wrote over a recent video of her working out at the gym. “I just decided my cancer can take a back seat to my mental health & I decided to live my life with metastatic breast cancer.”
And despite having 22 surgeries to treat her breast cancer, Bella is determined to maintain a hopeful outlook for viewers saying she chooses “to live life in a positive way, every day.”
@breastbellaofficialI chose to move forward ##breastcancer ##MakeItCinematic ##IKnowWhatYouDid ##TreatiestCupContest ##fyp ##foryou ##fog ##storm ##bethechange♬ End Of The Road – Machine Gun Kelly
“2 choices in life; let the storm consume you,” she wrote in another recent video. “Or look it straight in the eye & keep moving forward.”
Understanding Different Types of Breast Cancer
There’s been a lot of progress in breast cancer, especially when it comes to new drugs that can target the hormones, genes, or specific receptors powering the cancer. These receptors include the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – and can now be used to tailor and even personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
Chemotherapy & Radiation for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer treatments can vary greatly from case to case, and not everyone has the same top choice of treatment method. Radiation, for example, is a big topic of discussion for breast cancer patients. The purpose of radiation is to kill cancer cells in a targeted way. With breast cancer, it is often used after surgery to kill off any cancer cells that may remain in the breast or surrounding area. But some debates focus on whether you should expose the whole breast or part of the breast to radiation. The main goal is to always offer the best outcomes with the least side effects, but some doctors disagree as to exactly how to go about doing that.
Chemotherapy is another hot topic of discussion, but, thankfully, there’s been significant advances to this therapy. Now, doctors have the Oncotype DX test to determine if a woman would be able to go through the treatment and avoid serious side effects. Important to note, however, is the fact that this is a test that only profiles the tumors of women who have early-stage hormone receptor-positive, HER2 negative breast cancer.
“What the Oncotype test does is it looks at certain genetic switches that can be turned on or turned off in a cancer cell,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen said. “And it helps determine, did the cancer cell have legs to move? Is it capable of metastasis? What is the risk of recurrence? Meaning, what is the risk of metastasis to that woman based on how that original cancer cell is presenting in the breast?”
If a person’s score is low, this tells doctors that chemotherapy is not the best option for them. Essentially, their prognosis will not improve with the treatment, so it’s not worth putting them through the immense physical toll.
What is Metastatic Breast Cancer?
We don’t know the specific features of Bella’s cancer, but we do know that she has metastatic, or “stage four,” breast cancer meaning that the cancer has spread, or metastasized, beyond the breasts to other parts of the body. It most commonly spreads to the bones, liver and lungs, but it may also spread to the brain or other organs.
And while there is technically no cure for metastatic breast cancer, there is a wide variety of treatment options used to battle the disease including hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy and a combination of various treatments.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Elizabeth Comen, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, explained how she tries to manage breast cancer when it has progressed to a later stage.
“With advanced disease, the goal of treatment is to keep you as stable as possible, slow the tumor growth and improve your quality of life,” she said.