“We did not make cancer a priority”
The state of the fight against cancer in the province is “alarming”, proclaims the Coalition Prioritize Cancer in Quebec. In the midst of the election campaign, the group reiterates the urgency of acting quickly and calls on the political parties to adopt a plan to combat these conditions.
Posted at 5:00 a.m.
“There are more than 20,000 people who die of cancer each year in Quebec. If we are able to mobilize and put everything in place for COVID-19, why can’t we do the same with cancer? asks Eva Villalba, Executive Director of the Coalition Prioritize Cancer in Quebec.
On May 2, the Coalition held an assembly on the fight against cancer at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. About a hundred health professionals, researchers, clinicians, patients and community organizations gathered to profile the challenges and solutions to be deployed to combat the disease.
In a report obtained by The Pressthe group unveils the recommendations and priorities that emerged from these discussions. It includes the importance of ensuring the early diagnosis of cancers, promoting the adoption of innovative practices and making cancer data public.
The speakers also denounced the major obstacles to the fight against cancer, in particular the bureaucratic heaviness, the lack of financial means and the difficult access to data.
“In Quebec, cancer has not been made a priority, even though it is the most important cause of death in the province. It discourages me. However, it is a major social issue. Everyone knows someone who has had cancer,” laments Sylvie Breton, who co-chaired the Estates General and who herself has cancer.
The Coalition is asking the government for a 10-year plan to fight cancer with public objectives and timelines. “It’s something we’ve never had, but which exists in particular elsewhere in Canada, Europe and the United States,” says Ms.me Villalba.
This absence of a plan has significant consequences on all facets of oncology, such as treatments, research, technological innovations and patient support, she says.
When you have cancer, the only thing that keeps you alive is hope. With a plan, patients will see that the government is fighting back and making it a priority. Currently, this is not the case.
Sylvie Breton, Co-Chair of the Estates General held by the Coalition Prioritize Cancer in Quebec
To make progress in the fight against cancer, Quebec must focus on prevention, in particular by reducing screening times and ensuring the early diagnosis of cancers, argues the Coalition. “It is very well documented that preventive interventions cost less for the health system in the long term and are better for the population than treating cancer,” says Ms.me Villalba.
To achieve this, it proposes to deploy awareness campaigns on the factors associated with the risk of cancer, such as smoking, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a diet low in fruit and vegetables or exposure to elements present in the environment.
Furthermore, the Coalition suggests making self-sampling devices accessible, particularly for cervical and colorectal cancer, using front-line resources such as groups of family physicians and community pharmacies.
Track data in real time
Finally, the Coalition would like Quebec to adopt public and transparent dashboards on the main indicators in cancerology, by 2024.
The pandemic has made us used to having a daily dashboard for COVID-19, so we demand to have one for cancer.
Eva Villalba, Executive Director of the Priority Cancer Coalition in Quebec
These data would make it possible in particular to monitor the variability of health results according to regions and populations, to avoid situations such as Rouyn-Noranda with the resulting excess of cancer cases.
“Currently, in the Quebec Cancer Registry, we only have data up to 2017. We also need more data, otherwise we cannot address the health issues of our population,” concludes the director.