We present you 5 highlights of the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation’s Breast Health Forum, which was held virtually this year, on October 16 and 17. For this 4th edition, over a dozen specialists presented panels regarding the issues and realities surrounding COVID-19 and breast cancer. ?
So what’s new in the realm of breast cancer
Screening and treatments: impacts of the pandemic
The latest numbers on the concrete impact of the pandemic on breast cancer treatments in Quebec have been unveiled. Good news: waiting times for surgeries over the past 6 months have been similar to those of the previous year for the same period. In other words, the majority of patients received their operations within a 28-day delay (the norm for breast cancer operations). However, it’s worrisome to note that from March to August of 2020, there were 732 fewer breast cancer surgeries carried out overall in Quebec’s hospitals. According to the scientific Co-directors of the Foundation, Dr. Louise Provencher, Surgical Oncologist at the CHU de Québec; and Dr. Sarkis Meterissian, Surgical Oncologist at the McGill University Health Centre, this is due to the fact that fewer patients were diagnosed with breast cancer during this period. “Those experiencing breast cancer symptoms have not consulted a doctor.” The experts wanted to reassure the population, in advising them not to be scared to consult at this time, as medical clinics are taking all of the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Consult your doctor if you observe any of the signs and symptoms in the Breast Observation Guide.
Adapting health care procedures in mid-crisis
A slower rhythm for health care services, postponement of follow ups, decreased accessibility to specialists, additional constraints and anxiety… A breast cancer diagnosis already constitutes a heavy burden! The health care system has been called upon to demonstrate versatility and resilience for the benefit of patients.
OPAL is a smartphone application, co-developed by Dr. Tarek Hijal and his team at the McGill University Health Centre, offers patients free access to their medical files, including upcoming appointments with explanations, lab results, medical info from radiation oncology, and educational materials pertaining to their specific diagnoses and treatments. OPAL is available to oncology patients of the Cedars Cancer Centre at the CUSM. The co-founders hope this technology will inspire other university health centres throughout Quebec.
The role of the community pharmacist
It’s more and more common for oncologists to prescribe oral medications. Patients therefore pick up their prescriptions at the pharmacy, and are largely autonomous, especially in the process of adjuvant hormone therapy. The community pharmacist, who has received specialized oncology training from the Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec, accompanies and supports the patient with the aim of improving prognoses and ensuring that medication is taken properly.
Discover the Ask your Pharmacist site.
COVID-19 and cancer vaccines: what’s the correlation?
″In the medium term, the pandemic will help us considerably with developing cancer vaccines,” states Dr. Claude Perreault, Researcher at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer of the Université de Montréal. While many vaccine production companies are currently concentrating on COVID-19, they will need to shift their vocations afterwards. ″We are ready!″ says Dr. Perreault, who is already working with his team on developing vaccines for ovarian cancer, acute leukemia, breast cancer and lung cancer. The key in their research: important discoveries in ″junk DNA”! In this type of DNA, constituting 98% of the human genome, they’ve pinpointed the antigens that are capable of generating an immune response to cancer, thereby defining the creation of a therapeutic vaccine.
″Our ambitious projection: within 2 years, we should be launching clinical studies, ″ concludes Dr. Perreault.
From COVID-19 to cancer: everything is in the genes
Genome, sequencing, PCR testing, mutations, heterogeneity… These terms are making the headlines more than ever due to COVID-19. At times these words may seem complex, but their common denominator, genomic science, has the power to bring us precision medicine. For the Breast Health Forum, Dr. Nathaniel Robichaud, Business Development Manager at Génome Québec, has taken the time to explain this to us in accessible language. Both in the context of COVID-19 and breast cancer, the boom in genomic technology and targeted therapies enables each niche of patients to make personalized medical decisions. Health care services will be adapted to us, to our genes, to our needs. In his presentation, Dr. Robichaud highlighted the research of Dr. Jacques Simard, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval and Researcher at the CHU de Québec. These studies involve earlier screening of breast cancer in populations at higher risk of developing the illness due to genomics.
Interested in participating in Dr. Jacques Simard’s study? Click here for more info.
Cancer is expensive!
$300. This amount represents the additional average monthly expenses for a family in which one of the members is affected by cancer. It includes the costs of transportation, parking, accommodations, medication, specialized lingerie, lymphedema treatments, and more. Cédric Baudinet, Grant Manager at the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation; and Nathalie Côté, Wealth Investment Advisor and Portfolio Manager at National Bank, provided a series of tips and advice to ensure your financial security throughout treatments. Learn more by consulting National Bank’s tool box. In addition, the Foundation offers a financial assistance program that nearly 500 people have benefitted from within the past year. Detailed information can be found on the Foundation’s website: https://rubanrose.org/en/my-community/support-resources/financial-assistance-program/.