1. Lung cancer screening
Lung cancer is the biggest cause of cancer cases and deaths in Canada. The Canadian Cancer Society expects lung and bronchus cancer will be diagnosed in 30,000 Canadians this year and cause 20,700 deaths, almost one quarter (24%) of all cancer deaths.
The best hope for treating lung cancer is to find it at the earliest stage possible when treatments are most effective. However, symptoms are often not noticed at the early stages so the best way to find it early is through a screening test, usually a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan of the lungs.
To encourage screening, early diagnosis and better treatment programs, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia launched free lung cancer screening programs for residents aged 55 to 74 who have smoked regularly for many years. Several other provinces and territories have taken steps towards establishing lung cancer screening programs. For more information on what type of screening program is available in your province, including the eligibility criteria, visit: https://right2survive.ca/resource-centre/screening.
If you think you are at risk of lung cancer given your smoking history, family history, exposure to radon or symptoms you might be experiencing, please speak to your doctor about lung cancer screening.
2. Tips on how to work with your cancer care team
You can play an active role with your healthcare team to make important decisions about your cancer care. Working together, you can ensure that the care and treatment decisions are right for you, considering your cancer situation and overall health but also your personal values and life goals. A great way to start is by having a conversation with your healthcare team to let them know more about you and what’s important to you. For instance, your goal may be to stay well enough through treatment to play golf, take a vacation, or to attend an important milestone like a wedding.
Here are key steps to take a more active role in your cancer care:
- Learn about your illness and treatments. Your healthcare team can provide you with the details you need about your diagnosis. Many cancer patients in Canada have access to an online patient portal at their cancer centre. If you don’t have online access to your files, be sure to ask for a printed copy of reports related to your diagnosis. You may also want to get in touch with a patient group that provides resources and support for your type of cancer.
- Ask your doctor questions about your treatment options. Print the list of questions below and bring it your next doctor’s visit. Write down any additional questions you may have.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to re-explain things multiple times – cancer treatments can be complicated, particularly if you’ve only recently been diagnosed.
- Bring a friend or family member to medical appointments.
- Take notes during your visit.
- In most cases, there is no need to rush. Take your time. Remember that there are no wrong decisions, only decisions that are right for you.
3. Improving cancer care
While addressing the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be of key importance, so is fighting cancer, which affects many older Canadians. The Canadian Cancer Society says that cancer, which is the leading cause of death in Canada, will strike more than two in five Canadians, and that approximately 90% of those who develop cancer are aged 50 and over. Providing quality and timely cancer care therefore has to be a health system priority, whether there is a pandemic or not.
In fact, COVID has had a devastating impact on cancer care, and it’s even more of a priority than ever. To find out the state of cancer care in Canada, C.A.R.P. surveyed its members in 2021. Among the key findings is that almost one in every three people who received a cancer diagnosis since the pandemic began in March 2020 said their diagnosis was delayed because of the pandemic and one in four said their cancer treatments or surgery had been delayed.
These pandemic-caused problems are being added to a cancer care system that was already under strain due to the growth in cancer cases in Canada as the population ages. In fact, the Canadian Cancer Society is projecting that the average annual number of cancer cases will be 79% higher in 2028-2032 than it was in 2003-2007 because of a growing and aging population.
Fortunately, actions that can be taken to improve cancer care and “build back better” to meet the needs of Canadians.
First, provinces need to adopt cancer plans with concrete targets and reporting mechanisms, with specific measures to eliminate cancer care backlogs.
Second, we need more investments in cancer care, and CARP members agree. Based on CARP’s 2021 survey on cancer care:
- 88% agree that provincial governments need to invest more in cancer care and increase services over the pre-pandemic levels to help eliminate backlogs as soon as possible.
- 76% think the federal government should increase its share of the financing of provincial healthcare costs to help address backlogs of care and increased health needs due to the aging of the population.
The pandemic showed that with substantial federal investments, the provinces were able to deliver far more, much more quickly. Let’s do the same for cancer because we absolutely need it, both to deal with the pandemic cancer backlog but also to improve the speed and quality of care going forward.
CARP recently hosted a webinar to discuss the issues noted above. Entitled, Hopes and Challenges for Lung Cancer Today, we heard from Bill VanGorder (CARP), Dr. Stephanie Snow (Lung Cancer Canada), John-Peter Bradford (Life-Saving Therapies Network) and Andrea Redway (lung cancer patient) with a closer look at progress recently made in cancer care and treatments as well as outstanding challenges that need to be addressed to ensure the best possible care for Canadians.
Nov 1st Webinar on Lung Cancer
Dec 8th Webinar on shared-decision making
Together, we can and must continue our fight against cancer even while we continue to deal with COVID. You can also learn more about fighting cancer at the Zoomer “It’s In You To Fight Cancer” website.