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Doctors to discuss needs of women with metastatic breast cancer

Patients battling the disease are invited to attend the discussion at Hofstra University on Saturday.

Doctors will address the special needs of women with metastatic breast cancer — a disease that spreads to distant sites in the body — during a daylong symposium Saturday at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

Patients who have been battling the disease are invited to attend the discussion on the Hofstra University campus in Hempstead and ask doctors questions about a form of the disease also known as advanced breast cancer.

“As of now, metastatic breast cancer is essentially an incurable but treatable disease,” said Dr. George Raptis, an oncologist who specializes in breast cancer at the Monter Cancer Center, a division of the Northwell Health network in New Hyde Park.

Raptis emphasized hope is the message that will run throughout the daylong forum, which begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. One of the longest survivors he knows with metastatic breast cancer has had the disease for 32 years.

The symposium is sponsored by the Susan G. Komen nonprofit, an organization dedicated to advocating for patients with the disease and funding scientists in search of a cure. The forum will cover multiple aspects of metastatic breast cancer, Raptis said.

For years, the annual Komen symposium has been held in Manhattan. The conference Saturday marks the first time it will be held on Long Island. Raptis said the symposium is titled the Inaugural Long Island Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference.

Doctors will address the underlying biological reasons that lead to metastatic breast cancer. Estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer will be discussed, as will metastatic cancers that have other causes, such as disease caused by the presence of the tumor-cell marker, HER2, Raptis said.

“What I have tried to do in organizing this is to eliminate lecturing. People are lectured to all the time. What I have found out by listening to patients is that they want to be part of the discussion,” Raptis said.

Another important form of breast cancer on the agenda is the triple negative form of the disease.

Triple-negative breast cancer, which tends to be aggressive, gets its name from the absence of three key biological markers on the surface of tumor cells: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and HER 2.

A recently reported study found that immunotherapy, when used in combination with chemotherapy, helped boost survival for patients with triple negative disease.

For reasons not yet fully understood, triple-negative breast cancer most frequently affects young women, often under age 40, particularly those who are African-American or Hispanic. People with mutations in their BRCA 1 gene also are at elevated risk.

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