We know that the right supportive and palliative care interventions—physical, psychological, social, spiritual and others—can improve a cancer patient’s quality of life and even increase survival. But palliative care is not integrated into the health care system, and coordinated access to these basic support services is sorely lacking.

Some hard facts:

  • Only 1 in 5 patients have access to palliative care
  • Access is wildly uneven across the provinces
  • While symptoms and side effects of cancer can be devastating, one-third of cancer patients don’t get the recommended supportive therapies. (For example, most cancer patients experience significant pain at some point, but a third or more continue to suffer from unrelieved pain.)
  • Most patients do not die in their preferred choice of location
  • Rehabilitation programs can also improve quality of life, but are inadequately provided
  • Access to information, services and communications is critically important to cancer patients and their families. But negotiating the cancer care system is usually a frustrating, overwhelming experience.
  • Half of cancer patients do not get the information they need, when they need it, to help them make critical treatment decisions.

What do we need to do?

  • Patients and their families need support throughout the cancer treatment process, and access to the best knowledge when and where they need it
  • Canada must do more to treat the person, not just the disease, and ensure that all needs –medical, physical, psychological, informational and more—are met with long-term, coordinated, holistic supportive care
  • Canada must establish national palliative care standards and processes
  • Canada must ensure that each province coordinates palliative care with acute care providers and community services (including hospital, hospice, home and respite care)

When it comes to controlling cancer, we know what we need to learn. Research priorities have been identified that will cut cancer down to size. As a bonus, Canada’s uniquely diverse population and geography make us an ideal research base.

Cancer Facts