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Cancer screening program aimed at First Nations’ adults

A new Integrated Cancer Screening Program is being launched at Regional Cancer Care Northwest to reach adults living in northern urban, rural, and remote communities, with an emphasis on reaching First Nations’ adults.

The northwest is one of only four cancer programs selected by Cancer Care Ontario (out of 13 programs in the province) to receive $100,000 in support for the roll-out of this new program, which specifically is designed to reach those who are “under-screened” or who have never before had access to cancer screening programs.

Dr. Linda Rabeneck, vice-president, Prevention and Cancer Control at Cancer Care Ontario, visited the cancer centre in Thunder Bay last week to make the announcement.

“Aboriginal and First Nation populations living in the northwest are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer than non-aboriginal populations within the region, and we expect their rates to continue to increase significantly over the next few years,” Dr. Rabeneck noted.

“This is why we need to implement this program as soon as possible,” she stressed.

Evidence suggests Ontario First Nations experience 20-30 percent higher cancer mortality than the general population.

First Nations also have poorer five-year survival rates.

Cancer is the third-leading cause of death in First Nations’ men and women, next to injury and circulatory diseases.

In First Nations’ women, breast cancer is more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage–34 percent diagnosed at Stage 1 as compared to 44 percent of non-First Nations’ women.

As well, rates of colorectal cancer in First Nations’ men have surpassed the general population and continue to rise rapidly among First Nations’ women.

The new Integrated Cancer Screening program will deliver breast cancer screening using mammography, cervical cancer screening through Pap testing, and colorectal cancer screening using the fecal occult blood test, or FOBT kits.

Regional Cancer Care Northwest is proposing changes to the mobile coach to support the delivery all three types of screening.

“Cancer screening is very important to First Nations . . . early detection and diagnosis will help increase survival rates, especially for women,” said Mae Katt, a First Nation nurse practitioner.

“In remote communities, health services are so overwhelmed right now with acute and emergency care that screening often gets missed. . . .

“The 40 percent shortage of nurses in some communities also means a lower priority for prevention and promotion programs,” she warned.

The program is expected to be up and running by November.

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