2011 Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Budget Submission by CBCN

February 23, 2011

Honourable Tom Marshall
Minister of Finance
c/o Pre-Budget 2011
Department of Finance
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6

Dear Minister Marshall:

The Canadian Breast Cancer Network (CBCN) is the only survivor-driven and survivor focused breast cancer organization in Canada. CBCN works to bring national attention to breast cancer patients and survivors and ensure that issues faced by those affected are addressed by decision makers in research and health care policy. CBCN has been the leading advocate for economic issues resulting from a breast cancer diagnosis, while promoting the improvement of services and access to optimal care for all breast cancer patients.

Over 23,000 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. For every woman diagnosed, up to ten of her friends, family and colleagues will be affected. This means that 230,000 Canadians are affected by breast cancer every year.

As the national voice for breast cancer survivors, CBCN knows that these women and their families face an incredible financial burden with a breast cancer diagnosis. As one of the most important issues facing all Canadians who are affected by cancer, CBCN’s recommendations for Budget 2011 focus on breast cancer patients in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador by reducing the economic impact of the disease, and enabling survivors to access the much needed treatment options available.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. Recognize that those affected by breast cancer and other cancers are a vital part of Canada’s economy, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador should bring in measures to facilitate their successful re-entry into the labour force. 
  2. Appreciate that access to breast cancer treatment is a very timely matter and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador should create a better approval process for breast and other cancer treatments. 
  3. To put in place a timely review mechanism for the applications of cancer drugs on compassionate grounds. 
  4. Expand full provincial breast cancer screening programs for women to begin at age 40 across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In May 2010, CBCN released a report titled Breast Cancer: Economic Impact and Labour Force Re-Entry, based on a survey of 446 breast cancer survivors asked about the financial impact of the disease. While many people know about the side effects of treatment and the physical strain of surgery and chemotherapy, the economic impact of the direct and indirect costs associated with a breast cancer diagnosis are overlooked.

80% of respondents experienced an economic impact following their diagnosis, often with devastating long-term financial consequences for both patients and their families. There are inconsistencies in public health insurance coverage across the provinces and territories, especially for cancer drugs, supplies and prosthetics. Out of pocket expenses such as travel, childcare and parking are not covered by any provincial plans. On average there was a 10% drop in annual household income following a diagnosis, which was often intensified by unexpected costs associated with treatment. To help cover costs, 44% of respondents depleted their savings and retirement funds, while 27% took on debt to cover treatment costs.

According to the 2010 Canadian Cancer Statistics an estimated 8, 900 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and 2,100 lost their battle with the disease.

For Budget 2011, we call on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to invest in this important initiative and to find ways to help cancer survivors to rejoin the workforce.

CBCN released a medical oncologist survey to mark Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day on October 13, 2010.

The Survey highlighted the challenges facing Canadians living with advanced or metastatic cancer. Canadian medical oncologists surveyed revealed that Canadians living with metastatic cancer, including breast cancer, lack both knowledge and resources, and face barriers in accessing treatment options due to cost and gaps in government funding.

Seven out of ten oncologists (73%) say that the cost of specific treatments and current government funding decisions impact which treatment they recommend for their patients, restricting their ability to provide their patients with all available treatment options.

Most oncologists surveyed said they would never suggest a non-publicly funded treatment to a patient knowing they don’t have access to private coverage or personal finances to cover the cost.

We would like the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to understand that access to treatment is a life-or-death situation for these patients and urge a creation of a better drug approval process of breast and other cancer treatments.

Currently the province of Newfoundland and Labrador does not have a mechanism in place to grant access to cancer patients on compassionate grounds for access to a drug that has been approved by Health Canada. We would like to see an approval process of treatments that a patient can receive during this time.

Breast cancer screening is a preventative measure and raises awareness around early detection for breast cancer. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador introduced the breast cancer screening program in the province in 1996 to the areas of Avalon Peninsula and in the Central East Health Region. Western Health expansion occurred in 2005 but, currently there is still not a full provincial breast screening program in place. CBCN would like the province to commit to this promise and expand the service not only to the entire province but to women beginning at age 40.

CBCN calls on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to invest in the cancer patients and ease the financial burden of cancer. By taking action on CBCN’s four recommendations; invest in measures to facilitate the successful re-entry into the labour force; drug approval process; access to treatment on compassionate grounds; and invest in breast cancer screening programs across the province the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will be taking important steps to support those Canadians who develop cancer.

A diagnosis of breast cancer, or any type of cancer, should be the beginning of a healing journey, not a descent into poverty and despair. The sad fact is that many Canadians who are diagnosed with breast cancer tend to retire from their jobs or go on disability or medical leave. Cancer survivors should be able to successfully contribute to national productivity instead of being reliant on the social safety net. It is time to invest in these Canadians and enable them to take advantage of every opportunity available in this great country.


Jackie Manthorne, Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Breast Cancer Network
Cc: Kelvin Parsons, MHA, Opposition Critic, Finance

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Last updated: March 3, 2011