Alberta Election: Read our Questions to Candidates

This is the letter sent out by Jackie Manthorne to all candidates in the 2023 Alberta Election. To read the answers, click here.

Dear Candidate:

Over 233,900 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every year, including 21,000 people in Alberta. Approximately 7,300 Albertans die of cancer each year. Clearly, this life-threatening illness affects entire communities, especially families, friends, co-workers, and entire communities.

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 Alberta 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, preventive measures, and the treatment and medications they need.

We invite you to respond to the following questions related to cancer care and healthcare in Alberta. Your responses will be circulated to cancer patients and survivors in Alberta, included on our website,, and posted on our social media.

Question 1: Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer screening can help find lung cancer early, improving the likelihood of successful treatment. Low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans search for lung cancer as well as other lung diseases. Early detection using low-dose CT scanning has been shown to reduce lung cancer deaths by nearly 25 per cent.

Alberta has launched a limited two-year project for lung cancer screening, with screening centres in Calgary, Edmonton, and Grande Prairie. Eligible candidates for screening are those from 50 to 74 and those who smoke cigarettes or who quit smoking after doing so for many years. However, the Lung Cancer Screening Program in British Columbia has 32 screening sites covering the entire province.

In addition, Health Canada estimates that about 16 per cent of lung cancer deaths are related to radon exposure in the home, with an estimated 3,300 Canadians dying annually of lung cancer caused by radon.

If elected, will your government:

a) Create a permanent lung cancer screening program that covers the entire province?
b) Provide access in this program for at risk individuals who do not currently or have never smoked, specifically those who have incidental pulmonary nodules?
c) Add radon to Alberta’s lung cancer screening program and make radon tests free of charge to Albertans worried about radon exposure?

Question 2: Addressing long wait times and limited access to cancer-related care and services in Alberta

Recent reports indicate that wait times and lack of access to dedicated cancer-related care and services have reached an all-time high in Alberta. Several provinces have applied unique approaches to address wait times for cancer-related care.

Some common strategies that have been implemented include expanding access to virtual care, which can help patients in remote areas access care more easily and reduce the burden on in-person services; improving referral processes, which can help patients access the care they need more quickly; and investing in cancer prevention and screening, which can lead to more effective and less invasive treatments and ultimately reduce wait times for more advanced cases.

If elected, will your government:
d) Address the issue of long wait times and limited access to dedicated cancer-related care and services?
e) Address the underlying causes of these wait times, such as workforce shortages, funding shortages, and inadequate infrastructure?

Question 3: Breast Cancer Screening

In Alberta, 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.

It is important to note that 17 per cent of breast cancers 1 and 27 per cent of years of life lost 2 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. 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.

If elected, will your government:
f) Allow women to self-refer for a mammogram, starting at age 40?

We thank you for your attention to these important matters.
Yours sincerely,
Jackie Manthorne