Dr. Brezden-Masley

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Dr. Brezden-Masley is a Medical Oncologist at Mount Sinai, Hospital Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, Medical Director, Cancer Program at Sinai Health, and the Director at Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre.

She is also on the Board of Directors of ReThink Breast Cancer, a national advocacy and support network for young women with breast cancer. She is active in research, education and has been instrumental in the clinical development of the cancer program at St. Michael’s Hospital.

Finding Purpose in Medicine
As a young researcher I always thought I’d love to see cancer cured in my lifetime. So, while I was doing cancer research travelling the hospital hallways, travelling the elevators – I saw lots of patients; patients with their loved ones, patients without hair – and I thought, ‘am I personally doing enough with basic science and research?’ and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a physician to see if I could take my learnings and somehow move it into the realm of cancer care on a different level. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into medical school after earning my PhD and my goal was medical oncology all the way.

About mBC
Metastatic breast cancer can sometimes be diagnosed at the start. A woman comes in with a breast lump and unfortunately it has grown rapidly or has been there a long time and may have spread to other parts of her body so it has metastasized. Alternatively, a woman has treatment, goes through surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy and the cancer goes into remission – but breast cancer is unique in that it can come back even many years later. The biggest risk is within the first two to three years, and we monitor these women very closely, but this cancer can sometimes come back after 7 years, 10 years, 15, 19 years later.

With mBC there are different subtypes. Women can live years with certain types of metastatic breast cancer but with other types, those with aggressive tumour growth, they may only live a year and a half. But there’s a lot of research going into mBC and as a result, some women are now living years with the disease. We’ve moved from getting a mBC diagnosis where the reaction was ‘oh my God, I’ve got metastatic breast cancer – is this a death sentence?’ to where we’ve changed the way we think about mBC and have begun to focus on controlling the cancer, shrinking it as much as possible to give women a good quality and quantity of life. I always talk about both quality and quantity of life equally to ensure the best for our patients. Our job as oncologists is to educate our patients, talk about treatments and newer treatments, talk about side effects, discuss new research trials and sometimes even suggesting taking a brief time off of treatment if their response to it is particularly harsh or if the cancer is very well controlled or if there are important personal events they want to attend.

The future of mBC and patient care
Sometimes you can’t help but feel like you didn’t do enough. As an oncologist you always wish you could do more for your patients. I wish we had treatment that could have done more, that could ultimately cure patients. But unfortunately, cancer will probably never disappear because our DNA mutates – that’s just how we’re built – and DNA mutations that are not repaired by our bodies tend to lead to cancer and some of us are just more susceptible than others. Especially as we age, our bodies can’t repair the DNA damage, so tumours develop.

But we can help patients with mBC live with this disease, where we can control the disease and help our patients LIVE with their cancer and have the opportunity for a more normal life; or as normal and as long and as fulfilling as we can get.
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