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Alliance asks premiers to take action now on cancer care

By News Jul 10, 2023 | 11:14 AM

Over 21,000 Canadians could die from cancer over the next decade due to pandemic-related delays, according to the Cancer Action Now Alliance.

The alliance issued an open letter ahead of this week’s premiers meeting in Winnipeg calling on the provincial leaders to take action.

In the letter, they asked them to prioritize the hundreds of thousands of Canadians affected by delays and gaps in screening, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of cancer.

“Cancer care has reached a crisis point because of widespread disruptions of screening, treatment and surgeries prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Statistics Canada, in 2020 diagnosis of cancer cases dropped 12.3% lower than the average annual rate over the previous five-year period, which is likely due to difficulty in accessing primary care services and underscreening. This means more patients presenting with advanced stages of cancer, requiring aggressive treatments and more surgeries, adding more pressure and costs to already overburdened health systems,” the letter states.

The Alliance says these lives can be saved if urgent action is taken now to address the gaps in screening, diagnosis, treatment, and surgeries.

“Already in Canada, we are seeing important and innovative initiatives to help the Cancer care system such as the recent changes in New Brunswick to support cancer patients and British Columbia’s new Cancer Plan. We welcome these initiatives, but more work is needed across Canada. More collaboration across stakeholders and decision makers is also needed and we are pleased to see initiatives on this front, such as the recent launch of the all-party federal caucus on cancer,” the Alliance says.

Cancer Action Now is a national alliance made up of patient organizations, professional associations, and life sciences companies.

Their letter also states they are calling on premiers to:

  • Use new investments via the Canada Health Transfer and bilateral agreements to implement concrete measures that will improve cancer care and patient outcomes, with meaningful input from cancer stakeholders including patients and caregivers.
  • Address backlogs in cancer diagnosis and care by increasing cancer screening and treatment capacity by at least 10% over pre-pandemic levels, for a period of three years to regain ground we’ve lost due to the pandemic.
  • Use the current Federal Provincial Territorial Conference of Deputy Ministers of Health structure to convene a pan-Canadian working group to address the issues impacting our cancer care systems.
  • Only with concerted, coordinated action can we close the widening gaps in cancer care and save lives.

“The above calls to action build on the fundamental and structural reforms needed in Canada’s healthcare system, especially around health data, primary care access, and healthcare workforce as outlined by many other stakeholders,” said the letter.


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