From left: Usman Aslam of Cancer Care Ontario, Alice Muirhead of Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, manager of chemotherapy at Lake of the Woods District Hospital Corinne Coffey, KCA president Chief Lorraine Cobiness and VP of patient services at LWDH Donna Makowsky at Seven Generations Education Institute Tuesday, May 28. Ryan Stelter/Miner and News

The Treaty 3 area has higher rates of certain cancers according to Cancer Care Ontario but access to information about the disease is a problem — the Kenora Chiefs Advisory aims to break down barriers community members face in accessing information about the deadly disease.

In a report compiled by Cancer Care Ontario and the KCA, colon and rectum cancer rates are higher in both men and women in the Treaty 3 territory, compared to the rest of Ontario. Myeloma, cervix and kidney cancer rates are higher amongst women in Treaty 3 than the rest of Ontario. However, prostate, breast and thyroid cancer rates are lower in Treaty 3 compared to Ontario.

Due to the higher rates of cancer, the KCA has initiated a seamless cancer care journey project which brought together service providers, bureaucrats, administrators and physicians at Seven Generations Education Institute Tuesday, May 28. The event was intended to bring everyone together to share their stories and KCA president and Chief of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation Lorraine Cobiness highlighted the importance of the elders and others who don’t always get a chance to speak in attendance

“There are people here who don’t necessarily always have a chance to connect with everybody all in the same room and voice their concerns,” Cobiness said.

Members of Treaty 3 face obstacles in accessing cancer treatment, the biggest one being fear according to Cobiness.

“It’s not having all the information,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s absolute fear.”

Some of the other barriers Treaty 3 members face include difficult relationships with providers, difficulty travelling to screening site, confusion about follow up steps and results being received too late or not at all. These were all identified by community members and providers in the Northwestern Ontario First Nations Cancer Screening Research Project which is still in progress.

The event held at Seven Gens is hoping to take the stories and experiences shared by those in attendance and develop an action plan to “make meaningful steps towards a seamless cancer journey,” a KCA news release reads. The project has funding provided for the next four years.

“Health transformation is happening, it’s here, it’s going to happen,” Cobiness said.

Cobiness is encouraged by the development of an All Nations Hospital and healthcare system in the works for the Kenora area, calling the project one of KCA’s biggest priorities. The seamless cancer care journey initiative can help contribute in the development of an All Nations Healthcare system, Cobiness said.

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