The number of Canadians living and surviving cancer has reached 1.5 million, according to new data that reveals the number of people with cancer in Canada is rising.
The data, released Tuesday by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), contains cancer prevalence figures looking at the past 25 years, the first of its kind in Canada to provide this kind of snapshot of long-term prevalence.
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A decade ago, it was estimated that one million Canadians were living with the disease, but the aging and growth of Canada’s population, as well as advances in medicine and research that help more people be diagnosed and survive, have result in a higher prevalence of cancer in Canada, according to the report
That’s both good news and bad news when it comes to cancer cases in Canada, says Dr. Janet Dancey, a medical oncologist and director of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group.
“The fact is that as we live longer and longer, the chances of getting cancer seem to increase, despite our best efforts and our best understanding,” he said.
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“We also have many effective treatments, and that’s how this particular publication, with its information on prevalence, can help highlight how many people live well beyond their cancer diagnosis. And I think it’s actually a very hopeful message.”
The report was developed by the Cancer Statistics Canada Advisory Committee in collaboration with CCS, Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Dancey says it will help provide important insight into trends in cancer occurrence over a long period of time that shows how well the country is doing in preventing, detecting and treating this disease and how well people with cancer are doing well over time.
For example, the report found that 60 percent of the 1.5 million people living in Canada who have been diagnosed with cancer in the past 25 years were diagnosed between five and 25 years ago.
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This means that a large number of people are living long-term after a cancer diagnosis, says Jennifer Gillis, senior manager of surveillance for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“This really highlights not only the improvements in survival, but also the long-term toll of cancer on our health care system and the need to advance research to improve prevention, but also the quality of life for people around the world.” those who have been diagnosed with cancer.
For Harjeet Kaur, the illness began as persistent fevers that would not go away.
It was the spring of 2019, and the then 32-year-old woman had recently immigrated to Canada from India and was otherwise in good health and looking forward to building a life in a new country with her husband.
But after many weeks of fevers, Kaur knew something was wrong. He started experiencing extreme chills and unexplained swelling in different parts of his body and then passed out one day in his bathroom.
It took her numerous visits to her GP and countless hours in hospital emergency rooms, where she was repeatedly told it was probably just a virus or an infection that would run its course, until she was finally admitted to a hospital in Edmonton for treatment. Test.
Two months and many endoscopes and scans later, she finally received the diagnosis: Kaur had a very rare type of blood cancer that had already progressed to stage 4. She was told she needed to start chemotherapy right away.
“Honestly, I never thought it would be the ‘big C’ word. I thought it could be some kind of infection or something, but I never thought it would be cancer, Stage 4,” she said.
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Her husband, brother and mother were equally incredulous.
“We still couldn’t get that thing in our minds that, OK, is it really cancer? Because until now we couldn’t diagnose anything and now suddenly it’s Stage 4.”
The diagnosis was just the beginning of the nightmare that Kaur was going to endure.
A side effect of his treatment caused permanent vision loss in one eye and he also developed an autoimmune disease, which complicated his treatment.
Eventually, he had to receive a stem cell transplant, which carries a significant risk of serious complications, including a 15 percent chance that he will not survive.
The COVID-19 lockdowns further complicated her treatment and meant she had to isolate herself in hospital for 32 days while undergoing treatments that were so painful that Kaur says she was unable to speak.
“I wasn’t sure if I would come back,” she said.
“The only thing that kept me going was my family and my friends and the strength that I brought into myself after all of this, that I need to get through this. I need to get back to my family. I need to get up. I need to do this. But it cost me a lot.”
It’s been a long road to recovery that Kaur says she’s still on, but a recent scan showed no evidence of illness. However, she still lives with the aftermath of the disease and its treatments, including early menopause and loss of sight.
But now she wants to be a voice for other cancer patients and let them know that it’s important for them to advocate for themselves throughout their cancer journey.
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Tuesday’s cancer statistics report shows that Kaur’s survival story is most common among the one in 24 Canadians now living with cancer. But it also highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic and Canada’s stretched health care system are having a significant impact on cancer patients, showing the need for more investment in health care in Canada, he said. Gillis.
Without more support, Canada’s health system will be insufficiently resourced to keep up with the growing number of Canadians affected by cancer, he said.
“That is why the Canadian Cancer Society is really advocating for all levels of government to work together to help create a health care system that is resilient and can meet the changing needs of people throughout their cancer experience. cancer,” Gillis said.
“There are many different ways people go through their cancer experience. Therefore, these results and the findings in this report can help us begin to understand who may need these support services throughout their cancer journey.”
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