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Medical Experts Host Forum in Calgary to Address Challenges Facing Indigenous Cancer Patients
by pmnationtalk onJanuary 25, 2017269 Views
Medical experts host forum in Calgary to address challenges facing indigenous cancer patients
Published on: January 23, 2017
Partners and community members gathered at a forum for the First Nations, Inuit and Metis Cancer Control Initiative in St. John’s last year.
Isolation, discrimination and a lack of data are a few of the many hurdles concerning health care experts searching for ways to make cancer care more accessible for indigenous communities in Alberta.
Dr. Angeline Letendre, lead scientist at the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund, is currently working on a cancer control initiative that aims to connect with First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) communities and develop a better pathway for cancer care.
“There really hasn’t been any work looking at developing a foundation of a service pathway for First Nations, and certainly nothing grounded in partnership with First Nations people themselves,” Letendre said.
Alberta has one of the fastest — and largest — growing indigenous populations in Canada. According to a report assessing FNMI cancer care in Alberta, the survival rate of FNMI people with cancer is 53 per cent, which is significantly lower than non-FNMI cancer patients.
The report also revealed that FNMI populations tend to be diagnosed in later stages of cancer compared to non-FNMI patients, which Dr. Letendre said could be due to a lack of culturally safe care providers, proper access to nutrition and discrimination.
“One of underlying, systemic issues that face First Nations is racism and discrimination coming into the system,” she said. “Much of the onus is on us as healthcare providers to have right base of knowledge, and to be open to other cultures and understand the issues they may be facing.”
Another barrier impacting work like Letendre’s is a lack of reliable and valid information regarding cancer experiences of FNMI patients; the discontinuation of Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan premium payments in 2009 has made it increasingly difficult to gather information on indigenous cancer patients, the report noted.
Between 1997 and 2010 — the most recent available data — almost 40 per cent of FNMI cancer patients in Alberta died as a result of their disease.
Pam Tobin, director of First Nations, Inuit and Metis Cancer Control at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, said indigenous populations in Alberta do have a greater incidence of cancer, which is often due to late diagnoses and difficulty navigating cancer care and treatment.
“The cancer journey for many indigenous people can be quite challenging,” Tobin said. “Especially in Alberta, if we have FNMI communities and partners all working together with the cancer system, that will speak volumes. Until everyone is at same table looking at ways together, it will take longer to improve the patient journey.”
A special full-day forum on First Nations, Inuit and Metis Cancer Control will be held at the Delta Hotel Downtown Wednesday to meet with partners, patients and community members to discuss further opportunities to improve cancer experiences for indigenous communities.