The province has announced plans to launch a new lung cancer screening program through BC Cancer that will provide residents at high risk of lung cancer an option to receive early detection screening.
B.C. officials are claiming that this program will be the first of its kind in Canada.
“At a time when we are dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that many families around the province are grappling with a cancer diagnosis. Cancer doesn’t wait for global pandemics, and we know that early detection can save lives,” said Premier John Horgan. “Our new lung cancer screening program will mean more treatment options, faster recovery and better outcomes for people around the province. It’s part of our work to keep people safe and healthy – no matter what they’re dealing with.”
During a press conference held on Monday, provincial health officials, along with Premier Horgan, said that the target population for this new cancer screening program will be adults aged 55 to 74 who smoke or have a heavy smoking history.
Government officials are expecting that the first participants could be receiving early detection scans by spring 2022.
“In 2020, an estimated 3,300 people in B.C. will be diagnosed with lung cancer,” said Adrian Dix, minister of health. “Through early detection with this new lung cancer screening program, we will see survival rates dramatically improve. Similar to our other cancer screening programs, British Columbia is leading the way. We are proud to be the first province in Canada to establish a lung cancer screening program.”
The Ministry of Health is estimating that approximately 300 people will be diagnosed each year through the program and, as a result of being diagnosed earlier, they will have more treatment options.
“This is a truly important day for British Columbians,” said Dr. Kim Chi, vice-president and chief medical officer, BC Cancer. “Our clinicians and scientists have been working for years to get to this point, which is being made possible by the leadership and investment from the government of British Columbia and our valued funding partners, the BC Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.”
The provincial government says the new lung cancer screening program supports other recent actions the government has taken to invest in early cancer diagnosis and treatment, including the expansion and investment in BC Cancer centres throughout the province with new state-of-the-art PET/CT scanners in places like Victoria.
“More people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. With the new lung cancer screening program, we will have the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of British Columbians, thanks to early detection and intervention,” said Benoit Morin, president and chief executive officer of the Provincial Health Services Authority.
According to the health ministry, six British Columbians die of lung cancer each day.
In addition to the new lung cancer screening program, B.C. was also one of the first jurisdictions to create a cervical and breast cancer screening program.