Over 200,000 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer and 80,000 will die from it every year. During their lifetime, nearly 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer, and 1 in 4 will die from the disease. This includes 80,700 new cases and 29,600 deaths in Ontario. Clearly, this life-threatening illness affects entire communities, especially families, friends and co-workers.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) is a national network of patients, families, survivors, friends, families, 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.
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. And according to a February 2018 Ipsos poll, healthcare is again the top issue during this campaign, with 40 per cent of respondents singling it out.
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, https://survivornet.ca/act/ccsn-election-campaigns/, and posted on our social media.
Question 1: Rehabilitation for cancer survivors
About 500,000 Ontarians have survived cancer for ten years or longer. But surviving cancer can leave a host of problems in its wake. Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. The Auditor General’s 2017 Report states that: “Psychosocial cancer services are insufficient and inconsistent…As many as 40% of cancer patients require help from specialized professionals in addition to their medical treatment… we noted that in 2016/17, only 5.8% of patients received consultations with dietitians, and only 6.6% with social workers. More than half of the 14 regional cancer centres did not have a dedicated psychiatrist, occupational therapist, psychologist, or physiotherapist on site.”
While advances in cancer detection and treatments have reduced mortality, persistent and late effects of cancer and its treatments need to be identified and managed lifelong, with rehabilitation programs filling a gap in survivorship care and responding to the need of some survivors for more specialized physical and mental recovery care.
- If elected to government, how will you ensure that cancer survivors have timely access to rehabilitation services in Ontario that are timely and free?
- If elected as an MPP, would you be interested in serving on the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network’s All-party Cancer Caucus which meets twice a year at Queen’s Park and is currently studying gaps in rehabilitation services in Ontario and how to fill them?
Question 2: Timely access to medications
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, where the cost of oral drugs is not covered.
If elected to government, will you commit to ensuring that:
- All cancer patients in Ontario receive timely access to the medications they need when they need them?
- The cost of oral cancer drugs is covered?
Question 3: Lymphedema
Lymphedema is a chronic health condition with many faces. Some people are born with it, while others develop it later in life, often after treatment for some cancers. An estimated one million Canadians suffer with this progressive condition that can have lifelong physical, emotional and financial implications for patients and their families. Approximately 387,000 Ontarians are living with lymphedema, with up to one in four breast cancer survivors developing lymphedema at some point in their lives.
If elected to government, will you commit to ensuring that cancer patients and survivors and other Ontarians with lymphedema receive timely and free treatment for this health condition?
Question 4: PSA Screening in Ontario
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.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Canadian Cancer Survivor Network