Canadian cancer organizations unveil first ever breast cancer patient charter

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In Canada, it is estimated that 22,200 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, making it the most prevalent cancer among Canadian women. On average, one in nine women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and one in 27 is expected to die from the disease. The risk of developing breast cancer increases greatly for post-menopausal women – it is predicted that 80 per cent of new cases will be in women 50 years of age or older. For younger women, aged 30 to 43, 20 per cent will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer often deal with considerable challenges in their search for breast cancer care. Access to the highest standard of treatment varies widely from place to place, and individuals, families and caregivers face the intense emotional and financial load a cancer diagnosis and ensuing treatment brings.

In an effort to help patients make informed decisions regarding their own care and treatment the first-ever Canadian Breast Cancer Patient Charter was developed. This charter is the result of years of collaboration involving breast cancer organizations and individual survivors and acknowledges the important role patients play in navigating the complexities of breast cancer care. The Canadian Breast Cancer Patient Charter is a work in progress that will continue to be adapted over time.

The charter guides patients throughout their diagnosis and care while recognizing the Canada Health Act which guarantees the right to universal, high-quality medical care delivered in a timely manner.

Highlights of the charter showcase patients’ rights to:

  • Timely and appropriate care by a health-care team;
  • Comprehensive information and data about the best evidenced-based treatments and the optimum standard of care appropriate to each diagnosis;
  • Psychological, spiritual and emotional support, and related information for patients, families and caregivers, including specialized services of psychologists, social workers and oncology nurses;
  • Nationally certified, high quality screening and diagnostic equipment operated by accredited professionals.

Additionally, the charter supports patients’ rights to:

  • Make informed treatment decisions including the right to pursue alternative or complementary therapies or refuse treatment;
  • Receive information about clinical trial information for which you are eligible;
  • Access information about educational materials and follow-up care;
  • Have access to a qualified, interdisciplinary health-care team;
  • Obtain a second opinion to provide confidence in your diagnosis and treatment;
  • Freedom from discrimination because of a cancer diagnosis.

“Treating breast cancer involves a team of health-care practitioners and support workers dedicated to the best possible treatment for each patient,” said Dr. André Robidoux, Professor of Surgery at the University of Montreal. “However, at the core of this specialized team is the patient. I believe there are significant benefits to patients who are engaged and motivated, and as a physician, I encourage patients to ask questions, so that they can be involved in treatment decisions.”

To download a copy of the Canadian Breast Cancer Patient Charter, please visit: www.canadianbreastcancerpatientcharter.com or call visit Willow Breast Cancer Support at www.willow.org.

Along with individuals who supported the development of the Canadian Breast Cancer Patient Charter, the initiative has been led by Willow, Breast Cancer Support Canada, Breast Cancer Action Nova Scotia, Breast Cancer Action Manitoba, Breast Cancer Action Saskatchewan, and directed by R&eacuteseau Qu&eacuteb&eacutecois pour la sant&eacute du sein – all who have been involved since its inception.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Patient Charter is supported by an unrestricted educational grant through AstraZeneca Canada Inc.