Cancer care in Manitoba has been improving but advocates in the field say there’s still more work to do.
Currently, nearly 7,000 Manitobans are diagnosed with cancer every year and according to experts that number is expected to grow to 10,000 by 2030 as the province navigates an aging and growing population.
“More and more people are going to be diagnosed with cancer and more people are going to be left for demanding treatment, so cancer is going to be so prevalent,” says Dr. Sri Navaratnam, president and CEO, CancerCare Manitoba.
CancerCare Manitoba says it’s focusing on closing a number of gaps, including making sure Indigenous Manitobans and people living in more remote corners of the province get equitable care.
“We are trying to work with the underserved populations, and we know the First Nations, Metis, Inuit, their cancer outcome is relatively lower than the rest of Manitoba and rest of Canada,” says Dr. Navaratnam.
And people with the disease are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, according to The Canadian Cancer Society.
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“About one in four people were still reporting disruptions in care, so cancelled or postponed appointments.” says the society’s Director of Advocacy, Stephen Piazza.
Piazza says early diagnosis makes it generally easier to treat and usually results in better outcomes.
“A number of cancers from the pandemic because of disruptions to things like screening programs, have gone undetected and undiagnosed. We want more timely access to things like cancer care. The other sort of aspect to this figure is the psychosocial impact of canceled or postponed appointments.”
With that in mind, organizations are working on improvements to deliver information to patients and how research can advance care.
“We are trying to diagnose cancer early, more treatments are available, newer technologies.” Dr. Navaratnam says.
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“We really need to bring the research to the patients. It’s a huge gap that we need to close in clinical trials.
“Every cancer patient who comes through the door should be able to see, is there a clinical trial? That means is there a new drug being tested or there is new way of treatment is being tested.”
As health-care providers and researchers work to close those gaps, Dr. Navaratnam says overall, more people are surviving the disease.
“Now, 64 to 65 out of 100 people are…cured of cancer.”
“We are trying to diagnose cancer early. More treatments are available, newer technologies, so that’s a significant improvement.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Cancer Society hopes conversations about cancer care will play a bigger role in shaping the future of Canada’s health-care system.
“Growing and aging population, the undiagnosed cancers from the pandemic, all of those things need to be considered as we sort of had these conversations about what the future of health care in Canada is going to look like,” says Piazza.
— With files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel
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