Over 91,600 Ontarians will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022, and 31,000 Ontarians will die from it in 2022.1 Clearly, this life-threatening illness affects entire communities, especially families, friends, and co-workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in delayed diagnoses and postponed testing and surgeries, creating a public health crisis that will result in increased mortality from late-stage cancer soon.
The government of Ontario has an important role to play in making sure that everyone diagnosed with cancer has timely access to cancer care and essential medical services as well as access to emergency rooms and the treatment and medications they need. As a candidate in the Ontario provincial election, we would like to hear from you about these issues.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) is a national network of patients, families, survivors, friends, community partners and sponsors. Its mission is to work together by taking action to promote the very best standard of care, support, follow up and quality of life for patients and survivors. It aims to educate the public and policy makers about cancer survivorship and encourage research on ways to alleviate barriers to optimal cancer care in Canada.
We invite you to respond to the following questions related to cancer care and healthcare in Ontario. Your responses will be circulated to cancer patients and survivors in Ontario and included on our website, and posted on our social media.
Question 1: Recovery from COVID-19 disruption of cancer care in Ontario
- Will your government increase cancer screening and treatment capacity by a minimum of 10 per cent over pre-pandemic levels starting in 2022 and continue for a period of three years?
- Will your government prioritize cancer surgeries to end the surgery backlog in 2022?
- Recognizing that the postponement of cancer services causes a healthcare crisis, how will your government ensure the continuation of cancer screening, surgeries, and treatment?
According to the latest data, 2022 will be the worst year for cancer deaths in Ontario due to widespread disruptions of cancer screening resulting in delayed diagnoses, postponed testing, surgeries, and treatment. This will result in an estimated minimum of 8,700 excess cancer deaths between 2020 to 2030, although this number will undoubtedly be much higher since continuing delays will increase the mortality by between six to eight per cent.
The Ontario government must prevent this from happening! Clearly, Cancer Can’t Wait!
Question 2: The expansion of lung cancer screening
If elected, will your government:
- Improve access to lung cancer screening by adding new sites in Peel, southwestern Ontario, eastern Ontario, and northern Ontario to eliminate barriers to care?
- Expand access to lung cancer screening for those who are at risk individuals who do not currently or have never smoked, specifically including those who are determined to have incidental pulmonary nodules?
- Create and fund an awareness program that will encourage people to get screened for lung cancer and help reduce the stigma associated with the disease?
Lung cancer has been the leading killer among all cancer types in our country, and for far too long, a diagnosis of lung cancer has been a death sentence. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With new technologies, innovative medicines, and earlier diagnosis, we can significantly improve the likelihood that lung cancer patients can become lung cancer survivors.
If elected to government, will your party allow women to self-refer for a mammogram, starting at age 40?
CONTEXT: In Ontario, access to routine breast screening mammography is not offered to women in their 40s. The Canadian breast screening guidelines state that women in this age group should be allowed to decide whether to have a mammogram. Despite this guidance, many women are unable to obtain the necessary referral for this procedure. Only four per cent of Ontario women aged 40-49 have been screened.2 It is important to note that 17 per cent of breast cancers3 and 27 per cent of years of life lost4 occur in women in their 40s. Cancer in this age group is more aggressive, which leads to increased mortality rates. Women in their 40s are not acceptable losses. Many have young children, are caring for aging parents, and are contributing to the economy.
Early detection is critical to avoiding the most aggressive medical care and saving lives. Women in their 40s who get mammograms have a 44 per cent lower mortality rate from breast cancer than those who are not screened.5 Many other jurisdictions in Canada provide women with the option to self-refer, either at age 40 or after their first mammogram in their 40s.
We thank you for your attention to these important matters.
- Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee in collaboration with the Canadian Cancer Society, Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2021. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2021.
- Nadler MB, Ivers N, Marchand-Austin A, Lofters A, Austin PC, Wilson BE, Desnoyers A, Amir E. Patient and provider determinants of breast cancer screening among Ontario women aged 40-49: a population-based retrospective cohort study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2021 Oct;189(3): 631-640.
- Howlader N, Noone A, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, et al. SEER cancer statistics review, 1975–2018. National Cancer Institute. 2021
- Oeffinger KC, Fontham ET, Etzioni R, et al. Breast Cancer Screening for Women at Average Risk: 2015 Guideline Update From the American Cancer Society. JAMA. 2015 Oct 20;314(15):1599-614.
- Coldman A, Phillips N, Wilson C, Decker K, Chiarelli AM, Brisson J, et al. Pan-Canadian study of mammography screening and mortality from breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2014;106.