Sunday, March 26, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0122 - CCAC Supplement

Saturday, March 25, 2006, the Globe & Mail print edition included a special information supplement from the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada ( It's only 2 pages in length, but packs a terrific punch, especially the new marketing phrase - Preventable, Treatable, Beatable.

Possibly the best article in the supplement, at least from my perspective, is the opinion piece by Dr Barry Stein, President of the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.

Preventable - Screening? Where is the commitment?
It's unconscionable that the equivalent of 2 wide-body jets crashing each month in Canada with no survivors occurs in this country as a result of colorectal cancer casualties - over 700 men, women, and children die each month in Canada from the disease. As Stein points out, if this were our casualty rate in Afghanistan, how long do you think it would be before there was a parliamentary inquiry?

And yet the best our federal and provincial governments can muster is stuttered steps towards colorectal cancer screening programs recommended by the National Committee on Colorectal Cancer Screening's (NCCCS) panel of experts in 2002. That committee outlined how simple fecal occult blood tests could reduce lives lost by between 15 and 33 percent. Yet as of this moment, despite interest and pilot tests, not a single provincial government has implemented a program. Thousands of lives have been lost by delays.

Treatable - Treatment? Too expensive?
But this isn't the worst of it. Provincial governments like Ontario and Saskatchewan are quibbling over reimbursement of standard treatment practices used in G7 countries, some refusing to pay at all for drugs proven to extend the life of cancer patients.

I'll tell you what's expensive! I have undergone combination chemoradiation therapy, will have major abdominal surgery with a minimum of 8 days of hospitalization, followed by about 6 months of adjuvant chemotherapy and, I hope, numerous checkups during my years of recovery. All of which could have been prevented easily with a colonscopy in my mid to late 40s. That's expensive!

On the other hand, even in my case of an advanced rectosigmoid carcinoma, new medical treatment protocols, advances in imaging technology and availability, regional access to top-of-the-line oncology teams, excellent psycho-social supportive care - these all mean my chances of beating rectal cancer are better than ever before! I will win the battle with my team of experts, family, and friends.

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