The Northeast Cancer Centre in Sudbury says it is working to improve cancer care for First Nations people.

The centre will hire two new people to help get timely care to Aboriginal communities.

"Historically, cancer rates in Aboriginal people have been lower than the general population," said Mark Hartman, vice president of the cancer centre.

"But we've seen more recently that there's been increases to the point where, in some cancers — and I think perhaps the best example is colorectal cancer in men — that we're starting to see that the rates are increasing."

Hartman said lower cancer rates in the past may have been due to fewer people being diagnosed.

'Reduce the gaps'

The two new jobs – an Aboriginal Patient Navigator and a Regional Aboriginal Cancer Lead – will be "vital components in delivering on our priorities of helping [First Nations] people to access and make their way through the cancer system and to enhance their knowledge, awareness, and experience throughout their cancer journey," Hartman said.

It is hoped that by building more cultural competency into the cancer care system will better meet the needs of Aboriginal patients.

"These two new positions will play a significant role in helping individuals and families transition between care settings … and reduce the gaps in services and information, resulting in more confidence and trust in the system and a family’s personal ability to cope with this devastating illness," said Gloria Daybutch, health director with Mamaweswen, the North Shore Tribal Council.