'We need to do better': Survey finds cancer patient care remains inconsistent across Canada
The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is calling on the federal government to do more for cancer patients, as the system continues to struggle nearly three years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Feb. 4 is World Cancer Day. It's an important date for Sandra Perrault, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2021.
"I'm very grateful and happy that my story turned out to be a good one, and I had a positive result. Unfortunately that's not the case for others, and I believe we need to do better," said Perrault.
The CCS has released the results of a national survey that indicates patient care for those being treated for cancer has not improved since the peak of the pandemic.
Among other issues reported by the 700 cancer patients and caregivers surveyed across Canada was the difficulty in booking appointments with cancer specialists.
As well, 25 per cent of respondents said they are still experiencing cancelled or postponed appointments, and 33 per cent said they are not confident they would get quality care in a timely fashion if they had a cancer-related emergency.
Perrault said it was very difficult for her to get treatment during the pandemic. "Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the access to physicians was reduced and restricted severely, and most of the appointments were over the phone and not in person," she said. "So you're not being examined by a physician, it’s a very different situation."
She said the communication between her and her doctor suffered, and as a result, it took a long time to properly diagnose her.
"I had to go straight to surgery, whereas quite possibly there might had been the potential - had I been diagnosed earlier - to have a different treatment," said Perrault.
The CCS said its survey – conducted in November 2022 – shows patient care has not improved enough.
"While we are seeing improvements in some aspects of cancer care and support since the peak of the pandemic, access to care remains inconsistent across the country and vital needs are not consistently being met," said a CCS news release.
Perrault is calling on the federal government to increase funding for cancer treatment, which would result in better access to early screening. "The quicker that we can get early detection, the better the outcome will be, and the better quality of life after," she said.
She added the government could also subsidize drug costs more. "In particular for chemotherapy drugs and other drugs that you go buy over the counter to help combat and help you with that disease, and the side effects from that treatment," said Perrault.
She said we also need more specialists and surgeons in our system, and better caregiver supports.
"I myself was off work for seven months. My husband stopped everything and took care of me," said Perrault.
She said she's grateful to her husband, family, and staff at the St. Boniface Hospital thyroid clinic for everything they did for her.
Perrault is now asking anyone who has been affected by cancer to participate in the CCS's Get Better card-writing campaign.
It asks Canadians to go to the CancerCare website to send a digital postcard to their Member of Parliament to ask for more cancer treatment funding.
Perrault said you can send a physical postcard to your MP as well. "Just give them your story, just say we need to do better … we need more funding," she said.
"We do need to do better and we can."
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