Sunday, December 04, 2005
An Unwanted Journey: Day 0010 - National Disgrace
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has indicated that bowel cancer kills half a million people worldwide each year. In Canada, we are told that 8,400 will die in 2005 from colorectal cancer and 19,600 will be newly diagnosed. I am one of those 19,600 people. I sincerely hope I will never be one of the 8,400 in any year! But the Canadian figures clearly show that Canada has one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the world.
What is most depressing about these statistics is that Canada has no population-based programs designed to screen for colorectal cancer. It’s not that nobody cares. It’s simply that we don’t have government sponsored health care policies in place designed to prevent unnecessary and premature death from colorectal cancer.
In my view, one of the major weaknesses of health care policy in Canada is that it is a provincial responsibility. Now that we are engaged in another federal election campaign, the one health care initiative from the governing Liberals designed to reduce wait times for medical procedures on a nation-wide basis will now be put aside until after January 23rd, 2006. I think that initiative is incredibly important, not just to reduce wait times, but to step up national awareness that some things are too important to be left to provincial governments.
Screening for colorectal cancer could be another federal initiative. Why not? Death from colorectal cancer is an unmitigated national tragedy that is almost completely avoidable, but the provincial governments have shown no leadership on this issue at all.
The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada has recently started its first advocacy campaign. The goal is to lobby provincial members of parliament to talk to their respective Ministers of Health requesting progress towards a population-based screening program. Here is an example of a template used for email for MPPs in Ontario:
I am writing as a constituent to ask for your support for a properly funded screening program for colorectal cancer in Ontario.
The incidence of colorectal cancer in Canada is among the highest in the world. In 2005, approximately 19,600 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and about 8,400 will die of the disease. It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in this country.
If detected at an early stage, colorectal cancer can be treated effectively with a high chance of cure. We need to screen for this disease to have any hope of early detection.
In December, 2002, the National Committee on Colorectal Cancer screening announced its findings on colorectal cancer screening and recommended that screening be offered to a target population of adults aged 50 to 74 years of age, and that individuals be screened at least every two years.
While the experts tell us that screening is necessary and justified, we do not have a population-based colorectal cancer screening program in place in Ontario.
I am asking you to write to the Minister of Health in support of colorectal screening in this province. We need colorectal cancer screening.
Please consider sending an email to your provincial member of parliament. Please also consider speaking directly to those requesting your vote in the federal election campaign to request a national initiative to save lives.