New campaign hopes to improve care, cut cancer rates in Inuit Nunangat
"Inuit are now experiencing the adverse effects of rapid lifestyle changes on their physical and mental health"
A new cross-country health campaign hopes improve cancer detection and treatment in Inuit communities.
Aboriginal groups across the country have joined forces with the federally-funded Canadian Partnership Against Cancer to improve cancer prevention and treatment for First Nations, Métis and Inuit by taking a closer look at cancer care in those communities.
The hope is that the data can be used to improve cancer surveillance, care and services.
While cancer is a major killer across the country, the rates of common cancers have grown in Aboriginal communities and in some populations are now above those in the general Canadian population.
Currently, cancer is the second leading cause of death among Canadian Inuit.
“Inuit, who once lived in unity with nature and were leaders with vibrant health, are now experiencing the adverse effects of rapid lifestyle changes on their physical and mental health,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s president, Terry Audla, at the launch of the project March 6.
“Adapting to change takes time and we all have to take responsibility and work as full partners when opportunities to influence positive change occurs, such as with [this partnership].”
In its initial research, the CPAC described the Inuit population’s experience with cancer as “a long physical journey which usually requires repeated trips to treatment centres and long periods of separation from home, family and community.”
The new campaign hopes to cut down on that travel by experimenting with more tele-health services, or more specifically, tele-oncology services, so more cancer diagnosis can be done in patients’ home communities.
The project will connect health authorities in communities across Inuit Nunangat, including the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services.
Nunavik has seen an increase in regional cancer rates, and now has a higher incidence of cancer than the rest of Quebec.
The mean annual number of new cancer cases is increasing, almost doubling within one decade, from 16 cases a year between 1996 and 2000 to 29 cases a year between 2006 and 2010.
In Nunavik women, lung cancer ranked first, representing one of every three new cancer cases, followed by colorectal cancers.
Lung and colorectal cases are also high in Nunavimmiut men, although less than for women.
But while a minimum number of screening services are available in the region’s two hospitals, Nunavik cancer patients are mostly sent to Montreal for diagnosis and treatment.
Health officials said in a March 7 news release that the new campaign with help reduce the “cancer burden” within the region.
And this will make it possible to provide culturally relevant services, as well as at-home care. That means improving patients’ compliance with treatment, the release said, as well as motivation to self-manage their condition.
The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer plans to invest $10.2 million into a First Nations Inuit and Métis cancer control initiative, which will span three years.
“What we’ve heard from these communities supports this and it is clear that patients and health providers are experiencing challenges across all jurisdictions,” said the CPAC’s Lee Fairclough. “This collaborative approach will help us learn from one another and identify common solutions to improve the cancer experience.”