New Democrats and advocates call for specialized health clinic for survivors of childhood cancer

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SURVIVORS of childhood cancer in B.C. need access to a specialized health clinic to combat the devastating health consequences of treatment for pediatric cancers, say the B.C. New Democrats.

 

“Due to a lack of financial commitment, families in British Columbia who once fought for their children to overcome cancer have now been forced to fight a battle against the late effects of cancer treatment,” said New Democrat Health Critic Judy Darcy. “These families should not have to fight alone.”

In support of the Pediatric Cancers Survivorship Society of B.C. and alongside those who are struggling with devastating health outcomes due to past cancer treatment, Darcy is calling on the B.C. government to establish and fully fund a specialized health clinic in Vancouver. The multi-disciplinary clinic could serve up to 3,000 childhood cancer survivors who were once treated at the B.C. Children’s Hospital and who may now be faced with overwhelming and catastrophic health issues.

Darcy notes there is currently no formal program or coordination in the health system for the long-term care of British Columbians who survived childhood cancer.

“Survivors are often unaware of the health risks of childhood cancer treatment, as are many doctors and specialists,” said Darcy. “Since there is no provincial strategy on how to address late effects, we have a moral obligation to take action and ensure the health of childhood cancer survivors is supported to the best of our abilities.

“By creating a specialized multi-disciplinary health clinic in B.C., we could finally provide childhood cancer survivors with the comprehensive level of care they require.”

Carolyn Vacheresse, President of the Pediatric Cancers Survivorship Society of B.C., and mother of a childhood cancer survivor, says the battle with cancer is not over for families whose children experience “late effects” – devastating and sometimes life-threatening health complications due to treatment sought for pediatric cancer.  Made up of cancer survivors and their parents, Pediatric Cancers Survivorship Society of B.C. is advocating for a multidisciplinary adult pediatric cancer clinic which would provide services to childhood cancer survivors once they leave B.C. Children’s Hospital. The clinic would also provide long-term health surveillance, counselling, and a registry for childhood survivors.

“Many parents who once made the decision to put their children through chemotherapy and radiation treatment did so with their children’s best interests at heart. While our children’s cancer may be cured, many of them are now left with debilitating physical and mental health issues including organ failure, blindness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Vacheresse.

“We need the help of our government and the support of people in B.C. to make sure our children no longer have to suffer. A dedicated clinic in Vancouver could finally provide us with the support our families have been looking for.”