Giving Voice to Canadians Concerned About Breast Cancer

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A patient’s perspective on MedSearch

Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, and your experience with breast cancer.

My name is Nathalie Baudais and I live in a small village south of Saskatoon. I am married, and we have a 10-year-old son. I was originally diagnosed with triple negative locally advanced breast cancer in 2008 when my son was six weeks old. I was treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy, and radiation. I was told that I was in remission.

In 2011, I received my metastatic diagnosis. The cancer had spread to the fatty tissue of my butt but didn’t involve any organs. Treatment again involved chemotherapy followed by a lumpectomy and radiation treatments. At this point, I was considered to be at no evidence of disease (NED) but I still had follow-up scans every three to six months. My doctors refused to discuss expected timelines with me. I was a patient and not a statistic. The typical five-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer patients is about 20 percent so I didn’t expect that I would live to see 40.

In 2013, through a routine scan, a lung recurrence was found. Luckily, due to its location, it was removed surgically and followed up with chemo. It might sound strange but I’ve been really fortunate with each recurrence since it’s only been one lesion each time, and the doctors have always been able to remove them surgically. Again, I had no evidence of disease. And I’ve been there since. It’s been over five years.

What challenges did you face in terms of trying to find information about treatments for metastatic breast cancer and what was available in Canada?

I have found that there is more of a team approach between patients and their medical team in a metastatic setting. My doctors have been willing to involve me in decision-making regarding my treatments. Because my breast cancer is triple negative, my treatment choices are limited to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. With a history of past chemotherapy regimes, my list of options begins to narrow. It is important for me to be aware of the latest chemo options, which are available locally and which are funded by the provincial registry. Many times, doctors only bring forward the options that are available and funded. These options may or may not be the best choice for the patient’s diagnosis and history. I would rather have information on the whole suite of options available to me so that I can make an informed decision about my treatment and the potential side effects that I am willing to live with for the benefits that I will gain.

What interested you specifically in this project?

The MedSearch project interested me because it was specifically created to help MBC patients. Supports and resources for MBC patients are limited and I was happy to be a part of something that would help MBC patients.

When I was having chemotherapy, my doctors and nurses discussed potential side effects with me and provided me with a summary drug sheet. It’s very different to discuss hypotheticals prior to treatment than when you are actively experiencing a side effect after treatment. I was constantly looking for those drug sheets to see if my symptoms were to be expected. Having something available online in an easy-to-access format would have been so much simpler.

Thanks to CBCN for looking at ways to improving the lives of those living with metastatic disease and for involving patients in the development of these resources!

How do you think MedSearch will help people?

I think that MedSearch will help in several ways:

  • Drug Options: patients can review the full list of provincially available and financially covered drug options for their subtype. If a particular drug of interest is not covered in their province, patients could consider:
    • Contacting their private insurance provider, which may cover the cost of the drug
    • Applying for a patient assistance program through the applicable pharmaceutical company
    • Requesting that their doctor apply for the special access program to gain access to the drug for the patient
    • Paying for the drug out of pocket
  • Potential Side Effects: the complete drug sheets are accessible from the search tool, so patients can easily access them for review as needed. This is particularly helpful when it’s late at night and you are wondering if a symptom you are having could be drug related. It’s next to impossible to recall all the potential symptoms that are explained to you before starting treatment.