Approximately 6,800¹ Canadians will have been diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in the year that has passed since it was last Melanoma Awareness Month. Many have lost their battle with this stealthy disease, and many remain to continue fighting the disease as long as they live.
As metastatic skin cancer patients receive the benefit of a better quality of life when treated with immuno-oncology therapies, as opposed to the devastating chemotherapies of old, it becomes an even more poignant discussion when we are faced with the reality of the limitations our health care system that does not allow us access to the treatments that may save our lives. With advances in treatment come improved results for survivorship, but the gap between these two things is still too wide for the comfort of Canadian melanoma patients.
In Ontario for example, it takes an average of 801 days for a new drug to be listed once it is approved.² That is about two years longer than advanced melanoma patients have to wait. Melanoma is an aggressive form of cancer, it does not stop for the health care drug approval process.
The patients and their loved ones who face this challenge are real people. They are not myths, nor exaggerations, nor random distant statistics. They are people who live in our local communities, they travel to cancer centres for help, and they live every day in fear for their future. They have children – or they are children, they have jobs and homes and aspirations for their lives, and they live every day in uncertainty, at risk of losing these things.
To help these patients – these people – we need to continue to bring awareness to melanoma and skin cancer disease. We need to be vigilant during this, Melanoma Awareness Month. We can start now by sharing the discussion of the reality of melanoma patients across Canada.
If you are a patient, or a caregiver of a loved one afflicted by melanoma, or if you want to help a friend in this situation, there are several things you can do. Share your story, share this story, connect with someone who is sharing their story, encourage others to do the same. Together we can make a difference.
In May, write to your local government representatives, share your story or that of your loved one. Help your MLA or MP to understand the needs of the melanoma patient, the needs of their constituents in their communities. Let them know you can’t wait, and that you need their help and their voice as your representative.
Discuss with them the impact melanoma has had on your very real life, and how it would benefit you, your family, and your community, if you were able to receive the treatment that could potentially save your life and return you to society as a melanoma survivor with the inspiration and ability to live to the fullest, as we all wish to do.
Save Your Skin Foundation has prepared some materials to help you to share your story this month, please click here to find examples of letters that will make it easier for you to contact your MLA. Help us to help you fight for timely, equal access to treatment for melanoma cancer patients across Canada.
¹Canadian Cancer Society et al. “Chapter 1: Incidence: How Many People Get Cancer?” Canadian Cancer Statistics 2016: Special Topic: HPV-Associated Cancers. 2016. pp. 27.
²Innovative Medicines Canada. Innovative Medicines in Ontario: Valuable Investments into Healthcare, Innovation, and the Economy. pp. 2.