Lung cancer patients in Sudbury and other parts of Northeastern Ontario have been invited to a special event this week that will be the first gathering of its kind in Northern Ontario.
The event is the lung cancer patient summit. It happens Tuesday evening at the Shirley and Jim Fielding Northeast Cancer Centre, beside Health Sciences North. The summit is a free event and participants are invited to register online here.
Sudbury oncologist Dr. Lacey Pitre will be one of the speakers and said this event will be different from other medical summits because it will be focused on the patients. There will be discussion on treatments, what drugs are helpful, clinical drug trials and shared experiences among patients.
Organized by the Northeast Cancer Centre and Lung Cancer Canada, Pitre said it’s about bringing all members of the team — from patients to family members to health professionals — together in one room.
"Lung cancer patients are maybe not feeling connected to each other because of COVID,” she said. “It's been tough to get patients together in a room. So we said, we want to put our lung cancer patients and their families and our doctors and our nurses in a room, and we want to have dinner together."
Pitre said it is important to bring people together who can share their experiences.
"The first piece is having a diagnosis of any type of cancer, but particularly it seems lung cancer can be a really isolating and a scary thing,” Pitre said. “Being around people who are at different stages of their treatment, I think it can be just very healthy and very helpful for patients who are undergoing treatment.
“It is one thing to get information from a nurse or a doctor; I think it's completely different from somebody who's going through the same thing you are."
She said patients can benefit from just knowing what they are facing and knowing that there is support for them.
"We want to provide education so that our patients know where to go if they're not feeling well and have the tools that they need to feel well during and after and even before treatment," Pitre said. "And we just want to bring awareness to the fact that lung cancer patients exist; lung cancer patients are deserving of excellent care. We really want to support them as they make connections in the community and even closer connections with us and our team."
From there patients can click on the tab for the summit.
She said the first-ever Northern Ontario summit takes place Sept. 19 and another summit is planned for Sault Ste. Marie on Oct. 6. More summits will take place later this year in Edmonton and Vancouver.
Pitre was also open about the reality of lung cancer, in particular it’s prevalence and how difficult it is to treat. One of every four people who dies of cancer, dies of lung cancer, she said.
"It is still absolutely the leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada, there's no question,” Pitre said.
Despite the prevalence and the difficulty in treating it, there is hope, she said.
“The treatments that we use, and our methods of detection are improving," Pitre said. "I think that there is a lot of hope for the future. We see the number of research studies looking at lung cancer, and it's going up exponentially.
"So I would say, it is very hopeful. There's so much work to do. There's always work to do, but the good news is that things are improving, I think month by month. And we're at least moving in the right direction."
Len Gillis covers health care and mining for Sudbury.com.