Janet Klein: Living With Stage 4 Breast Cancer

After her breast cancer recurred and metastasized, Janet Klein participated in a clinical trial for palbociclib, which has kept her disease in check for more than five years.

Janet Klein believed that she would be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point.

“My mother’s had breast cancer twice. My sister’s had it,” she said, “so I just assumed that eventually it would be my turn. I stayed vigilant with my mammograms and hoped for the best.”

And when her ‘turn’ came, Janet’s caution paid off. Her breast cancer was at caught in stage 1 before it had spread.

“I was very, very fortunate,” she said. “There was no lymph node involvement. I had a wonderful surgery followed up by tamoxifen and thought I was finished and very, very lucky.”

But about four years after her surgery, and well into her five-year course of tamoxifen, Janet got a call from her gynecologist’s office following a screening mammogram. They’d found something suspicious. Janet underwent another mammogram and followed up with one of her surgeons, who recommended she undergo a needle biopsy right away.

“So that is what I did, and sure enough, I had a recurrence of the breast cancer in the small amount of breast tissue left after the mastectomy,” Janet said.

A PET scan and bone biopsy revealed that the cancer had metastasized to her left iliac bone. Janet underwent a lumpectomy and surgery to remove both ovaries – a bilateral oophorectomy – and then met with her oncologist to discuss and plan her treatment options.

“The first thing my oncologist told me about was a phase I clinical trial testing a new drug, palbociclib, together with letrozole,” Janet said. “Once a radiation oncologist had agreed that it was OK to just watch the bone tumor, I was cleared to participate in the clinical trial. There has been no sign of cancer in my body since January 2010, about nine months after I started on the clinical trial.”

Janet will take letrozole every day and palbociclib on a four-week cycle for as long as the treatment keeps her cancer in check.

“Right now, the quality of my life is extraordinary. If you saw me walking down the street you would ever imagine I was a stage 4 cancer patient,” she said. “I think it is critically important for women to know that you can go through stage 4 breast cancer and come out the other end. For more than five years there has been no evidence of my cancer, and all I do is take a pill and live my life.”

Read or download the full AACR Cancer Progress Report 2015.