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LETTER: Need focus on cancer patient experience

Much research has been done to increase our understanding of cancer, and many life-extending and life-saving therapies have been developed. But in these quests, we have not given sufficient focus to the cancer patient experience; one that begins with hearing the words, “You have cancer.”

Earlier this year, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC) released Living with Cancer: A Report on the Patient Experience. This is the first national report of its kind that illustrates how patients themselves go through their cancer journey, and shines a light on the many gaps in the current approach. From accessing information about cancer, to managing the financial burden of the disease, to navigating the logistics of family life, to travelling for treatment, to reintegrating back into ‘normal life,’ there is so much more than the disease and its treatment that patients must face.

In Nova Scotia, many people travel to Halifax to receive cancer treatment. The cost of travel and accommodations can be so significant for some, they delay treatment. But last week there was some good news for patients: for those traveling more than 50 kilometres to Halifax for their cancer treatment, free accommodations would now be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at The Dr. Susan K. Roberts Lodge That Gives.

The Lodge That Gives is part of the Sobey Cancer Support Centre, which also provides services for people living with cancer in the Steve and Kathy Smith Programming and Wellness Area. The Canadian Cancer Society has operated the Lodge for more than 18 years, funded through the ongoing generosity of donors. Over the years, patients of all ages from as far away as P.E.I. and New Brunswick have called the Lodge their ‘home away from home’ during treatment. The Lodge relieves a small part of the financial burden for patients, and the Programming and Wellness Area supports their emotional, informational, and physical needs.

When patients return home, although their treatment may have ended, their need for support continues. The toll-free Cancer Information Service is available to connect with cancer information specialists who can answer questions and direct callers to resources, peer support, and other services in their community.

These are just some examples of how CCS is addressing the current gaps in the cancer care continuum in Nova Scotia. The Canadian Cancer Society is encouraging governments, health care workers, advocacy organizations, and community groups to find ways to continue to collaborate and provide the resources needed to lessen the burden of cancer for patients, their families and caregivers.

Jane Parsons

Regional Executive Director, Atlantic Canada

Canadian Cancer Society

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