Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, making end-of-life care a growing concern as the population ages.
This year's annual Canadian Cancer Statistics report, released by the Canadian Cancer Society, highlights the often heartbreaking challenges faced by dying cancer patients and their friends and family members who often take on the role of caregivers.
"Losing a loved one to cancer is difficult enough," says Liz Viccars, Vice President of Community Engagement for the Alberta/NWT Division of the Canadian Cancer Society. "It's essential to ease that burden on both patient and caregiver as much as possible."
"My own mother suffered unnecessarily because protocols for pain control at the end of her life were not in place," says Viccars, who recently lost her mom to cancer. "It is an agonizing memory my sisters and I will live with forever, along with the sorrow that we couldn't do more because the only available hospital did not have palliative facilities."
The Canadian Cancer Society is advocating for greater access to quality palliative care, which varies depending on where a person lives.
"Without adequate pain control and privacy for the family, there is no dignity at the end of life for a cancer patient," says Viccars.
In addition, the Society is working to ensure that patients have the right to choose where they die. Currently, more than 55 per cent of Canadians die in the hospital, although most terminally ill people say they would rather die at home.
Because caring for dying family members very often results in psychological and financial burdens, the Canadian Cancer Society is also urging the federal government to create a national strategy that would include compassionate care benefits and a caregiver tax benefit.
Highlights: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2010
- It's estimated approximately 173,800 new cases of cancer (excluding 75,500 non-melanoma skin cancers), and 76,200 deaths from cancer are expected to occur in Canada this year. - In Alberta, there will be approximately 16,000 news cases of cancer diagnosed in 2010. It's estimated 6,200 Albertans will die due to cancer this year. - About 40 per cent of Canadian women and 45 per cent of men will develop cancer during their lifetimes. - More than one-quarter of all cancer deaths - 27 per cent - are due to lung cancer.
Canadian Cancer Statistics 2010 is prepared, printed and distributed through a collaboration of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada, provincial/territorial cancer registries, as well as university-based and provincial/territorial cancer agency-based cancer researchers.
Source: CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY (ALBERTA/NWT DIVISION)