Lung cancer drug will help, but 'real promise' is early detection
P.E.I. government adds Afatinib to provincial formulary
Lung Cancer Canada is pleased the P.E.I. government has added a new lung cancer to its formulary, but said an early detection program is needed to improve the cure rate.
P.E.I. added Afatinib to the formulary last month. It was the last province to add it.
Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price, a medical oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital and president of Lung Cancer Canada, said Afatinib works against specific types of cancer that make up about 15 per cent of cases.
"It's a very effective oral medication that's taken once a day with really good response rates," said Wheatley-Price.
"Most people will find that their cancer significantly shrinking, quality of life improves and their disease is controlled for a lot longer than [with] chemotherapy."
A call for better detection
But while Afatinib can extend life and make patients feel better, Wheatley-Price said it will not in most cases lead to a cure for Islanders under current conditions.
"Most patients with lung cancer already have advanced disease by the time they're diagnosed, at which point treatments are given to try and buy people some time, but are not a cure," he said.
The real promise for improving the cure rate comes through early detection.- Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price
Late detection of lung cancer is one of the reasons this cancer has the highest death rate in Canada.
Lung Cancer Canada is urging provinces, including P.E.I., that don't have lung cancer screening programs to establish one.
It estimates low-dose CT scans, especially in high risk candidates, could reduce deaths by up to 20 per cent.
"The real promise for improving the cure rate comes through early detection," said Wheatley Price.
Health PEI studying the issue
Ontario is setting up a lung screening pilot project in three locations next year, he said.
Health PEI says it is monitoring the growing evidence and is identifying what is needed to prepare for lung cancer screening of Islanders who are high risk. A feasibility study being prepared next year that will guide decision making.
The Canadian Cancer Society estimates 120 Islanders will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year.
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | More breastfeeding support coming for Island moms and babies
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Ice cream, beer and soap: Chamber honours Charlottetown businesses
With files from Laura Chapin