Cancer cases and deaths higher in county
Lung cancer leading cause of deaths and new diagnoses
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | May 18, 2017|
In the midst of graduating from high school and going to prom last year, now 18-year-old Jaden Wilson had to confront something much more challenging: cancer.
Wilson recalls the day she was diagnosed last June with thyroid cancer and describes it as a “life-changing experience,” and one that impacted her entire family.
“I have two little brothers, and their definition of cancer is that you’re going to die,” she said. “It was tough going home because I was never able to open up to them, or my family, since they didn’t understand what I was going through.”
A month after her diagnosis, Wilson began to visit Haliburton’s cancer support group, which meets monthly at the hospital.
They welcomed her with open arms and provided her with a safe space to express her fears and ask questions.
She continues to go and is the youngest member of the group.
“They’re like another family,” she said.
Wilson is in the clear, but she continues to visit doctors and specialists once a month in Barrie.
Even today, the travel is stressful, she says.
“You have to wake up every morning, see the scar, take the medication. The travel then definitely makes the situation much more stressful,” said Wilson.
Leading causes of cancer mortality in HKPR
Leading causes of cancer incidences in HKPR
A new report from Statistics Canada says the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has one of the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates in the country.
Approximately 530 people per 100,000 in the district health unit were diagnosed with either breast, lung, colorectal or prostate cancer between 2010 and 2012.
The mortality rate from those types of cancers during the same time period was almost 250 per 100,000.
According to Public Health Ontario, mortality and incidence rates for all malignant cancers (based on 2011 and 2012 numbers) are higher than the average figures for health units in the province.
There are several reasons why the numbers are high, says Anne Marie Holt, HKPR’s director of communicable disease control, epidemiology and evaluation.
“There are the traditional risk factors like tobacco use … our smoking rates historically have been higher than other jurisdictions. So we’re still seeing a lot of trickle-down effect from about 10-20 years ago when it comes to smoking,” she said.
“But the key here is to consider socio-economic status and healthy public policy,” she said. “Healthy lifestyles are absolutely something we need to make headway in.”
Rural jurisdictions should strive for proper access to healthy foods and active living, Holt says, adding the province should take a closer look at how healthy public policies and basic incomes impact disease outcomes.
Haliburton County has one of the highest poverty rates in the province. According to the county’s poverty reduction strategy, 271 households access food banks on a monthly basis, 30 per cent of those households have children.
But in terms of a single contributing factor to the high rates, Holt says there is no such thing, and that overall, the numbers shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.
Advancements in technology, which help doctors detect cancer sooner, could also be contributing to the high numbers, says Carolyn Plummer, president and chief executive officer of the Haliburton Highlands Health Services.
She also echoed Holt’s comments about socio-economic factors.
“It certainly plays a role in health outcomes,” she said.
And while the recent Stats Can numbers were standardized by age, meaning a statistical adjustment was made to remove the age factor out of the data collection, the Highlands’ growing senior population likely plays a role in high cancer mortality and incidence rates, Plummer adds.
“The older you are, the greater risk you are at diagnoses of cancer,” she said.
The occasional tissue sample can be sent to Peterborough or larger hospitals in the city for analysis, says Plummer, but for the most part, patients are not diagnosed with cancer locally, and have to travel elsewhere for CT scans and biopsies.
But despite the long travels for treatment, Wilson has found comfort in her rural community.
“Being diagnosed with cancer was life changing … but the support group was life changing, too.”
The group’s program facilitator, Jane Van Nood, says approximately 10 people attended their sessions last year. That number has now gone down to four.
It’s difficult to take that first step through the door, she says, but once clients get through, they don’t want to leave.
“We have one gentleman who comes in from Bancroft,” she said.
For more information about the hospital’s hospice services, visit hhhs.ca/community-support-services/hospice or call 705 457-8350.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.