The following is a letter sent by Canadian Cancer Survivor Network CEO Jackie Manthorne to all the candidates in the 2023 Prince Edward Island provincial election. You can view the responses here.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network congratulates Prince Edward Island for recently enacting the PEI Cancer Action Plan 2023-2028, the purpose of which is to provide a path to reduce cancer risks, advance high-quality care, and support Islanders impacted by the disease.
Over 233,900 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every year, including 1,060 people in Prince Edward Island. Approximately 400 Islanders die of cancer each year. 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 Prince Edward Island 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.
We invite you to respond to the following questions related to cancer care and healthcare in Prince Edward Island. Your responses will be circulated to cancer patients and survivors in Prince Edward Island, included on our website, www.survivornet.ca, and posted on our social media.
Question 1: Lung Cancer Screening
While the PEI Cancer Action Plan 2023-2028 discusses breast cancer screening, colorectal cancer screening, and pap tests and cervical cancer screening, there is no mention of a lung cancer screening program being developed. And yet lung cancer is diagnosed more frequently in PEI (an estimated 170 cases in 2022) and causes more deaths (115 in 2022) than any other cancer.
Lung cancer screening can help find lung cancer early, when treatment has a better chance of working. Low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans search the lung cancer as well as other lung diseases. Early detection using low-dose CT scanning has been shown to reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 per cent.
Several provinces have created permanent lung cancer screening programs (Ontario) or are engaging in pilot projects (Quebec, Alberta). British Columbia, with its Lung Cancer Screening Program’s 32 screening sites covering the entire province, is an example of a successful program.
If elected, will your government:
- Create a lung cancer screening program that covers the entire province?
- Provide access in this program for at risk individuals who do not currently or have never smoked, specifically including those who are determined to have incidental pulmonary nodules?
In Prince Edward Island, women with dense breasts do not have access to essential supplemental screening, such as ultrasound, which can help to find breast cancer early. Dense breasts make it harder for radiologists to spot cancer because both cancer and dense tissue appear white on a mammogram. A masking effect is created. For women with dense breasts, mammograms are not enough. It has been known for over 25 years that ultrasound can find many of the cancers that are missed on mammograms when they are still small and have not spread to lymph nodes. Early detection of breast cancer means a better prognosis for PEI women, less aggressive treatment, and better quality of life.
If elected, will your government:
- Ensure supplemental breast screening for women with Category C and D breast density?
Many Islanders are concerned about the link between cancer and pesticide use in the agricultural industry.
- What steps will your government take to address this issue?
We thank you for your attention to this important matter.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Cancer Survivor Network