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Canadian Cancer Society wants timeline on P.E.I.'s lung cancer screening commitment

‘Providing Islanders with cancer-screening tools is a part of cancer care,’ says Heather Mulligan, manager of advocacy for the Canadian Cancer Society in Atlantic Canada. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
‘Providing Islanders with cancer-screening tools is a part of cancer care,’ says Heather Mulligan, manager of advocacy for the Canadian Cancer Society in Atlantic Canada. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

The P.E.I. government says it is going to bring lung cancer screening to the province, but the Canadian Cancer Society wants to know when.

The government committed to a screening program as part of the P.E.I. Cancer Action Plan, released last year.

"Planning for this has been underway for some time and continues as we prepare for a phased-in approach over the next few years, though no date has been decided at this time," Health P.E.I. wrote in an emailed update to CBC News.

While pleased by the continued commitment, Heather Mulligan, manager of advocacy in the Atlantic Provinces for the Canadian Cancer Society, would like some more specifics.

"A few years is wonderful to hear, but timelines would be better," said Mulligan.

"There is immediate action that is required in Prince Edward Island. Providing Islanders with cancer-screening tools is a part of cancer care."

Improving survival rates

Prince Edward Island can expect about 160 new lung cancer diagnoses in the coming year.

Mulligan said 110 of those patients will not survive the diagnosis. That's because waiting for symptoms often leads to late detection, typically a Stage 4 cancer that has already metastasized.

The three-year survival rate for a Stage 4 lung cancer is five per cent, but it is 71 per cent for a Stage 1 cancer.

And detecting cancer early is not just good for the patient, said Mulligan.

"Ensuring patients are able to be screened early and get access to treatment early also reduces the overall pressure that a late-stage cancer produces on the health-care system," she said.

A lung cancer screening program is currently being implemented in Nova Scotia, and available to residents of the central zone.

Patients can call a toll-free number for the program, so they do not need a primary care provider.  Services include nicotine replacement therapy and counselling about their lung health, as well as the low-dose CT scan.