I'm going to start, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the members of the committee for the opportunity to present today.
My name is Dr. Stuart Edmonds. I am the executive vice-president of Mission, Research and Advocacy at the Canadian Cancer Society. With me today is Kelly Masotti, vice-president of advocacy.
With respect and gratitude I am joining you today from the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat people, which is now home to many diverse first nations, Inuit and Métis people. I also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty No. 13 and the Mississaugas of the Credit.
Two in five Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, accounting for 28% of all deaths.
Today, we will share with you how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the cancer experience of many people living in Canada, and their loved ones.
Multiple waves of COVID-19 have put a tremendous strain on Canada's health care system. To ensure that there was sufficient health system capacity during surges of COVID-19, hospitals across provinces and territories were directed to pause all their procedures deemed non-urgent, including cancer screening, diagnostics and surgeries. This has subsequently led to a growing backlog of delayed cancer screening, diagnostics and surgeries, which means people living with cancer are waiting longer to receive care.
We know that when cancer is found early, it's often easier to treat. Delays in screening and diagnosis may result in poorer patient outcomes, including an increased risk of death.
The impact of COVID-19 on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment will be felt for months and years to come. Studies are starting to be published on how COVID-19-related delays impact people living with cancer. A recent Ontario modelling study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal estimated that longer wait times for cancer surgery may lead to shorter long-term survival. This study highlights the importance of maintaining timely access to cancer surgery to prevent the harmful impacts of delayed care on people living with cancer, even during times when health resources are constrained.
In CCS-led surveys between July 2020 and March 2022, people with cancer reported having their cancer care appointments postponed or disrupted. Almost half the patients reported disruptions in the first wave of the pandemic, and while disruptions dropped over time, they have increased slightly since August 2021. In our last survey, one-fifth of respondents reported disruptions to their cancer care appointments.
For many patients there is a window of opportunity for treatment. Delays in appointments and treatment may lead to missed opportunities, and the cancer may have spread.
CCS-led surveys found that people living with cancer had higher rates of anxiety during the early stages of the pandemic. The sense of anxiety was higher among caregivers, with more than three-quarters of respondents stating they were more anxious than normal.
CCS continues to hear from people affected by cancer who say they are frustrated by a lack of access to their health care teams, and although this concern has lessened over the course of the pandemic, we're still supporting them through our support programs, and we're still hearing from people who feel forgotten.
We need federal leadership. CCS was pleased to see the introduction of BillC-17 on Friday, which would provide an additional $2 billion to address immediate pandemic-related health care system pressures, particularly the backlog of surgeries, medical procedures and diagnostics. We encourage all parties to work together and pass Bill C-17 promptly. Every moment matters as has been evident by the recent CMAJ paper. Cancer is not waiting, and neither should the government.
CCS also urges the federal government to continue to make necessary investments to expand the domestic capacity of vaccines, therapeutics and other life-saving medicines. We were pleased when the government launched the biomanufacturing and life sciences strategy last July, with a commitment of $2.2 billion expected to be allocated over seven years.
One of the strategy's key investments created a $250-million new funding stream, the clinical trials fund. CCS welcomes this funding and looks forward to the details on this development and implementation of this fund. These investments are critical to keep Canada at the forefront of new innovations in health care and provide really early opportunities for Canadians to access potential game-changing new therapies and diagnostics.
I now want to turn it over to my colleague, Kelly Masotti.