Health PEI 'anxious' to see results from Ontario lung cancer screening pilot

Health PEI is still gathering information to determine whether it should set up a lung cancer screening program on the Island.
Lung cancer coordinator Jennifer Jelley says Health PEI wants earlier detection of lung cancer. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

Health PEI is still gathering information to determine whether it should set up a lung cancer screening program on the Island.

The province hired Jennifer Jelley as a lung cancer coordinator about a year-and-a-half ago, and one of her tasks was to set up screening.

Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer for both Island men and women. Seventy-five per cent of Islanders are diagnosed in either stage 3 or stage 4, when the cancer is more difficult to treat. 

"Really the target is early detection, so making sure that people are diagnosed at an earlier stage," said Jelley.

"Then treatment opportunity is much better and outcomes are more improved."

Jelley is working with a pan-Canadian group that is looking at evidence on screening from around the world.

Currently, that group is waiting for results from a pilot project out of Ontario that will soon be released. Jelley expects territories and provinces will use information from that project to help form their own screening criteria.

Ontario has four test sites where high-risk individuals are being offered low-dose CT scans to determine whether they have lung cancer. 

"We're anxious to understand how that's working for them," Jelley said.

"A lot of the criteria for screening will be established based on that pilot in Ontario."

At this point, there is no definitive timeline as to when a lung cancer screening program would begin on P.E.I. The province is still gathering evidence from around the country.

Lung cancer screening is having good uptake among tobacco smokers in other areas of the world, Jelley said.

'The target is early detection'

In the meantime, Health PEI is working on prevention by standardizing smoking cessation treatment using the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation, and introducing training programs for staff.

Eighty to 90 per cent of lung cancer is caused by smoking, said Jelley. 

Quitting smoking is the best way to prevent lung cancer, says Jelley. (Shutterstock / sruilk)

"At every health care encounter they're asked about their tobacco current use or recent use," she said.

"They're advised that quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health."

What follows is further assessments, arranging treatment options and then followup in terms of ongoing counselling or online or telephone support.

Lung cancer is one of the top four cancers the province wants to tackle, Jelley said.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning


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