Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada. The Canadian Cancer Society estimated that 85,100 people died from the disease in 2022. But even in the face of this, there is reason for hope.
While the pandemic continues to push the health-care system to its limits, the past three years have given rise to new approaches that will have a positive, long-term impact on the health-care and cancer systems, and for people whose lives are touched by cancer.
The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (the Partnership) is supporting partners across Canada on a number of initiatives as we work together to achieve the vision of the 2019-2029 Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control. This includes a strong focus on health equity and closing the care gap – which is also the theme of this year’s World Cancer Day.
We have been working together to help ensure that everyone in Canada has access to high-quality cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support services. For instance:
- Developing and implementing First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples-specific, self-determined cancer strategies and priorities, such as culturally appropriate care closer to home.
- Implementing the Action plan for the elimination of cervical cancer in Canada. Cervical cancer is nearly always caused by a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. This cancer is preventable through immunization and screening.
- We have been engaging with communities with lower HPV im-immunization rates to find solutions to increase vaccination uptake; for example, adding conveniently located catch-up immunization clinics in rural and remote com-munities where the rates of immunization are lower. We are also supporting jurisdictions across Canada to replace the traditional Pap test with the more effective HPV test.
- Strengthening implementation of and access to lung screening programs across Canada. Lung can-cer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada, but survival rates increase dramatically with early diagnosis. Four provinces have launched organized lung cancer screening programs or pilots, and six other provinces are in the planning stage.
- Planning for the implementation of innovative ways of delivering care that support equitable access, experiences and outcomes. Over the next five years, the Partnership will invest $13-million in new models of care delivery across Canada, such as networked clinics that can provide cancer care in less urban settings.
There are new approaches to care that can help to address system capacity and access constraints. In particular, innovations in virtual and digital health and navigation that arose during the pandemic can be game-changing for people affected by cancer and, if done properly, can help to improve equity.— Dr. Craig Earle, CEO, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
The Partnership is also working to support pandemic recovery and help map out a shared way forward. This includes The Road to Recovery: Cancer in the COVID-19 Era, a report that highlights innovative work un-derway and identifies improvements to boost cancer system capacity and save lives.
Although we are making strides, our work is not yet done. We are continuing our focus on cancer in three key areas:
- Health-care human resources: Canada’s cancer care professionals continue to do their utmost to pro-vide excellent care through wave after wave of the COVID-19 pan-demic despite overwhelming pres-sures. However, the disruptions are taking their toll. The burden on health-care workers is heavy, leading to burnout and contribut-ing to delays in cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment.
- Preparing for a surge in cancer cases: Disruptions in preven-tion, screening, diagnosis and treatment services that occurred throughout the pandemic are expected to lead to a surge in can-cers diagnosed at more advanced stages with increased care needs in the months and years to come. The system needs more capacity to meet these needs of patients, including necessary resources for cancer surgeries and procedures, and attention to the psychologi-cal, social, emotional and spiritual impacts on people whose cancer diagnosis and treatment may have been delayed.
- Building on new ways of delivering care, including those supported by digital technologies: There are new approaches to care that can help to address system capacity and access constraints. In particular, innovations in virtual and digital health and navigation that arose during the pandemic can be game-changing for people affected by cancer and, if done properly, can help to improve equity.
Extraordinary work is happening across Canada to recover from the pandemic and improve cancer outcomes for all. We need to keep the momentum going. We must continue to focus on reducing the impact of cancer by driving innovations that contribute to a strong and resilient cancer system that delivers improved cancer outcomes across all 13 provincial and territorial health systems.
To learn more about the Partnership and the work of its partners, please visit www.partnershipagainstcancer.ca.
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