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Stage Four Metastatic Breast Cancer Needs More

By Rethink Contributor April 28 2018

By Judit Saunders

Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients have been the subset of breast cancer patients that have been pushed to the sidelines and often ignored. We’re viewed by many as that dark secret that nobody wants to expose.

MBC is breast cancer that has left the breast and travelled to distant sites, such as the bones, liver, lungs, and brain, just to name a few. Sadly, through the years, men and women, young and old, have heard these words echo through their ears, forever changing the course of their lives. Approximately 20-30% of patients diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and treated with curative intent, go on to later develop a metastatic recurrence. This is in addition to those who are stage IV from the get-go.

Once those words are uttered by your oncologist, you know the disease is no longer curable. This is NOT a chronic disease, but rather a terminal one with less than 25% of women living for five years past their diagnosis. Those with MBC are in a continual cycle of scan, treat, and repeat. Life-extending therapies, including new and innovative drugs that make it to market, are our only hope of reaching milestones such as another birthday or watching a young child start school.

MBC patients across Canada and those who love and support those affected by MBC have decided that enacting change is a must if we want to try and change the landscape of this poorly understood, underfunded, and under-recognized group of patients. More and more Canadians affected by MBC have realized we must tackle issues that are important to the MBC community including drug funding, delays in access to treatments, the lack of system transparency, improving the information given to newly diagnosed MBC patients in cancer centres, and tracking metastatic recurrence.

When an advocacy group is solely comprised of individuals all living with a terminal disease and our health changes at the drop of a dime, making strides to enact change is that much more challenging. Sadly, complications with MBC, progression, and ultimately death are huge barriers to ensuring a steady climb towards change.

Rethink Breast Cancer listened to and understood our needs. So collectively we decided the best step to ensure we move ahead, both strategically and realistically, meant collaborating with an organization with the resources to make a far greater reach in ensuring implementation of real change occurs.

We wanted this subset of patients to finally be heard. And we wanted to enact change in our lifetime.

I am so excited by the creation of Rethink Breast Cancer’s first-of-its-kind Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board.  It will bring together brilliant minds of all ages from across Canada with not only MBC patients but allies who have deep personal connections in wanting to see change in the MBC landscape. We are excited to collaborate on the needs of this unique population and ensure our voices are heard at local level provincial and national levels.

We may be a population that was dealt some of the most life-shattering news one could imagine. But with our collective passions, skill sets, and drive, I truly feel we are on the cusp of creating a movement that can change lives…lives that may not yet even know will need our help.

This is our reality, and we will do all we can to ensure it’s a reality that is made better for those to come after us, and those who are still living this life today. We can be the change. We WILL be the change. There is no other option. We, the metastatic community, deserve more and we will do all in our power to ensure that our goals are met.

– Judit Saunders