What Do I Need to Know About Lung Health in Canada?
Lung cancer is the biggest cause of cancer cases and deaths in Canada. More Canadians die of lung cancer than colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancers combined. However, recent advances in screening, care and treatments means there is now hope for Canadians who are diagnosed with lung cancer.
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 should be a health system priority.
COVID caused 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, CARP surveyed its members in 2021. Among the key findings was that almost one in every three people who received a cancer diagnosis between March 2020 and September 2021 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 in addition 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.
Fortunately, actions that can be taken to improve cancer care and “build back better” to meet the needs of Canadians.
How is CARP Advocating?
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.
Third, we need better screening. We know that screening with CAT scans, in particular, saves lives. If you’re treated and diagnosed with a stage 1 lung cancer, your chance of survival in 5 years is 70-90%, whereas being diagnosed with a stage 4 lung, your 5 year survival rate is 10% or less.
To encourage screening, early diagnosis and better treatment programs, some provinces (Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia) have 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.
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.
How Can I Get Involved?
There are many ways to get involved. Find out more.