moved that Bill C-314, An Act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-314, an act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue, for the final hour of debate in the House.
Bill C-314 calls on the federal government to encourage the use of existing federal initiatives in order to increase awareness among Canadian women about dense breast tissue and the implications for breast cancer screening.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. It claims many lives, and many deaths can be avoided through screening and early detection.
This year alone about 23,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,000 women will die from this disease. That represents about 450 women diagnosed each week. This situation is difficult to accept. It affects women and their loved ones profoundly.
For women with dense breast tissue, breast cancer is generally harder to detect using mammography, resulting in the need for more frequent screening.
Raising awareness about dense breast tissue is important for Canadian women. Through the bill we can raise awareness of breast cancer screening for women with dense breast tissue. Greater awareness and information about dense breast tissue is a tangible way we can make a difference. It would help women and their doctors make well-informed decisions regarding breast cancer screening. For these reasons I will ask my colleagues to continue to show their support for the passage of the bill.
Bill C-314 would support a number of initiatives that the federal government already has under way to support early detection and screening of breast cancer.
As noted in the bill, the federal government plays a role in facilitating the sharing of best practices and information on screening, as well as supporting research through its programs and networks. Building on existing initiatives, the bill is focused on raising awareness in several ways.
First, the bill requires the government to determine if there are breast density information gaps in relation to breast cancer screening. Through research we can investigate the full spectrum of cancer prevention and control, including breast cancer.
In this regard, the federal government's cancer research investments through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, are serving to fill some research gaps. Through the CIHR, the federal government is supporting research on more effective diagnostic treatment and prevention for all cancers, including breast cancer. In 2010-11, $171 million was spent on cancer research, and $22.7 million was spent for breast cancer research.
These research investments are supporting important scientific work. In particular, CIHR's Institute for Cancer Research is supporting research that will lead to reducing the burden of cancer on individuals and families through improved prevention efforts. It has placed a priority on research concerning early cancer detection, and it is working with partners to advance this research priority.
For instance, the institute is currently exploring partnerships with groups such as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, and it would include efforts in early detection as part of this focus. The institute is looking at targeted funding for research on the early detection of cancer, including breast cancer, to address information gaps. Scientific research such as this is helping to improve screening and is helping to raise awareness about the challenges related to breast cancer screening.
In addition, to raise awareness, the second element of the bill requires that approaches be identified, as needed, to improve information for women in order to, first, address the challenges of detecting cancer in women with dense tissue and, second, raise awareness concerning these challenges.
In response to the bill, the government will continue to raise awareness about breast density and its screening implications through the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative. This initiative respects the role of provincial and territorial programs and the role they play in early detection of breast cancer among Canadian women. Through it, we are working with the provincial and territorial governments to measure screening program performance nationwide and to develop better screening approaches.
The Canadian breast cancer screening initiative supports the good work already under way with our provinces and territories. By facilitating information-sharing about breast cancer screening across Canada, the initiative can achieve its goal of evaluating and improving the quality of organized breast cancer screening programs.
The Canadian breast cancer screening initiative is helping raise awareness about cancer screening, including screening for women with dense breast tissue. By building upon best practices and lessons learned, breast cancer screening programs can be improved and strengthened across the country.
The third element of the bill even more directly relates to the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative. The bill would require the existing Canadian breast cancer screening initiative to share information on dense breast tissue and its relationship to breast cancer screening and any follow-up procedures that may be necessary. The follow-up procedures are a pretty important part of this.
Sharing information about ways to improve cancer screening programs ensures women receive the full benefits of early detection, including information about all aspects of breast cancer screening.
We must sustain this collaboration and collective assessment of breast cancer screening programs. In this regard, the government has established a federal, provincial and territorial national committee for the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative, which also includes medical professionals and key stakeholders.
This is a platform for engagement. It provides opportunity for governments to work together on screening recommendations and approaches. For example, the national committee is currently looking at breast cancer mortality and improving screening for underserved populations. This committee encourages the sharing and pooling of information. This is a basis for a balanced set of protocols across Canada, based on best practices. There is no monopoly on a good idea, and an effective screening mechanism in one part of the country can easily be adopted in another part of Canada.
In addition to the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative, the government has also established a national repository on breast cancer screening. This national database is housed and administered by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Information is provided by provinces and territories and rolled up into a biannual report to Canadians on new cases of breast cancer and cancer deaths. The report also contains data on participation in organized screening programs, mammography use and follow-up.
In line with the bill, the database would include breast density information in the future. This is an important addition to the repository. In turn, information would be provided to Canadians on this important issue.
The Canadian breast cancer screening initiative would continue to provide a decision-making tool for women. It, too, would include information on breast density.
All this good work is helping build awareness and understanding of the effects of breast cancer screening on breast cancer survival rates and other important issues.
In sum, the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative is an invaluable collaborative effort. It accesses new information about screening on a regular basis; it ensures that programs and policies are informed by the most up-to-date information; and it provides good information to help Canadians and to help professionals make the best possible decisions about breast cancer screening.
The bill also recognizes the important work done by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer on cancer prevention and control, more generally. Our government established the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer in 2006 to implement the Canadian strategy for cancer control. In March 2010, we renewed its funding, investing $250 million for another five years.
The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer is an independent, not-for-profit corporation. Its work includes prevention, early detection, treatment and support for Canadians living with cancer, and it involves many players, such as cancer experts, charitable organizations, government cancer agencies, national health organizations, patient survivors and others. Our investments in the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer help provide women with up-to-date information on breast cancer screening.
Recently, the bill was discussed at length in committee and a number of experts and witnesses shared their stories with us. I thought I would share a few.
Ms. Feather Janz detected a lump in her breast at age 20. However, despite going for numerous tests, cancer was not detected. She was finally diagnosed with highly aggressive grade three breast cancer at the age of 23. She underwent a radical surgery and her left breast was removed.
About 12 years later, Feather started to feel that her remaining breast was not quite right. Over the next four years, she continually went for mammograms but, again, nothing was detected.
The reports contained notations like “high dense breast tissue”, “too dense”, “quite dense” and “not able to see any abnormalities”. That is all the reports said. Feather insisted on surgery to have the other breast removed, and after the procedure the pathology report stated that it, indeed, had been a case of advanced aggressive breast cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes. Feather told the committee she was shocked when she found out that the likely reason for this happening, and her life being threatened due to it, was because of dense breast tissue.
Another example is Mr. Bruce Cole, who testified before the committee about his wife, Sharon, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36 and passed away at 40. Bruce Cole is from the same region of the country that I come from, Simcoe County. Mr. Cole talked about the incredible tragedy of losing his wife, who left behind children aged 17, 15 and 13. Her family had no history of this terrible disease and Mr. Cole testified that, regrettably, his wife did not have access to the screening technology and the knowledge we have today.
Since Sharon's tragic death, Bruce has been very active with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation as a donor and volunteer, and he attended the world forum on breast cancer last June in Hamilton. Bruce urged the committee to pass Bill C-314. He said it would help improve the quality of information to women as part of Canada's organized breast screening programs. Bruce knows this bill would help raise women's awareness about breast density and its implications for their health.
Bruce correctly pointed out to us that digital mammography or MRI are more effective than screen-film mammography at detecting breast cancer in dense breast tissue like his wife had, and he emphasized the need for sharing information between the Public Health Agency of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments. Sadly, Bruce understands that his wife might be here today if these practices had been in place when Sharon needed them most, but he bravely soldiers on, fighting this battle in her memory.
With all of us working together, we can improve screening and early detection and provide important information to women, health care professionals and Canadians. Bill C-314 calls on us to do exactly that. By passing this bill, we can ensure awareness is raised about breast cancer screening for women with dense breast tissue. We can ensure that existing initiatives assist women and health care professionals in making well-informed decisions regarding screening. Raising awareness about breast cancer screening can lead to early detection, and early detection can save lives.
For these reasons, I encourage all members of the House to support my bill, and I sincerely hope that it will go a long way in helping to save more lives in the future.
I know this is something Canadians care passionately about. Every October the breast cancer walk is held in communities across Canada. In my home town, Barrie, there is a sea of pink, people walking on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay to support breast cancer research. This is a way to support the collective will of Canadians who say they want us to act and make a tangible difference in fighting breast cancer.