Deb Matthews, London North Centre

Dear Jackie,

Thank you for sending along your questions related to cancer care and healthcare in Ontario. You have been a great advocate for cancer survivors and I look forward to continuing to work with you after June 12th.

The Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), which provides free mammography breast screening for women 50 to 74, has been the cornerstone of early diagnosis of breast cancer in Ontario. If elected to government, will you commit to continue funding free breast screening through OBSP?

The Ontario Liberal Party is committed to continue funding the OBSP for women aged 50 to 74 years and for women aged 30 to 69 years are at high risk for breast cancer. We know that breast cancer continues to be the most common cause of cancer for women in Ontario, but that in the early stages, breast cancer, as well as cervical cancer and colorectal cancer, can be impossible to see or feel. That’s why regular screening is important.

In 2011, the Liberal government invested an additional $15 million to expand the Ontario Breast Screening Program to reach women between the ages of 30 and 49 who are at high risk for breast cancer due to genetic factors, medical or family history, and support additional exams for women aged 50 to 69 who are currently covered under the program. The Liberal government also committed $154 million to build on the province’s cancer screening program and increase early detection and treatment of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer. The Integrated Cancer Screening Strategy now integrates breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening into one coordinated program.

A key element of ensuring timely treatment for a cancer patient is ensuring they have access to the medications they need at the time they need them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in Ontario. If elected to government, will you commit to ensuring that all cancer patients in Ontario receive timely access to new medications at the time they need it?

Under Ontario Liberal leadership, this province has become a leader in care in Canada and around the world. I am proud that we have built a system in which an Ontarian who gets cancer has one of the best chances of survival anywhere in the world. In order to ensure cancer patients receive the treatment they need, the Liberal government more than tripled funding for cancer-fighting drugs and since 2006 added 57 new cancer drugs to the formulary.

Ontario Liberals know that access to life-saving medications is vital. That is why we created the Case-by-Case Review Program (CBCRP) that considers funding requests for oral and injectable cancer drugs for cancer patients who have rare clinical circumstances that are immediately life threatening, and who require treatment with an unfunded drug because there is no other satisfactory and funded treatment.

We also know there is more that needs to be done. For example, we know that specifically in the case of cancer drugs, there have been significant advancements in the availability of oral cancer medications. We know that Cancer Care Ontario is undertaking early work to evaluate the current delivery system for take-home cancer therapies. If given another mandate, the Wynne government will work with industry and our partners in the provincial drug programs across the country to enhance patient access to Health Canada approved cancer medications.

The HPV vaccine can help prevent future cases of cervical, anal and oral cancers. It is most effective when given at a young age when immune systems are most receptive to the vaccine. However, the HPV vaccine is only available free through school-based clinics to girls. If elected to government, will you implement free school-based HPV vaccine clinics for boys?

I am proud that the Liberal government was the first government in Canada to make the HPV vaccination available for girls. In 2012, we built on the success of this program, expanding it to girls in grades 9-12, free of charge, who didn’t receive the vaccination earlier. Ontario Liberals will continue to review the evidence and the cost-benefit ratio of expanding our program to include boys, as part of our broader evaluation of all vaccines in the pipeline.

Is your party in favour of implementing free PSA testing for prostate cancer in Ontario as a population-wide screening tool? If not, please explain how your party would ensure that Ontario men will have access to early diagnosis of prostate cancer.

The Ontario Liberal Party understands the important role screening plays in detecting cancer. That is why, in 2009, the Ontario Liberal government began covering PSA testing for diagnosing or monitoring purposes. The Ontario Liberals are committed to making evidence-based decisions regarding PSA testing and will review any new information to support PSA screening tests for asymptomatic men.

Deb Matthews