New Brunswick government funds lung cancer screening program for 2025

Click to play video: 'N.B. offering early detection screening for lung cancer'
N.B. offering early detection screening for lung cancer
WATCH: Some New Brunswickers will soon be eligible for early detection screening for lung cancer. This comes as the province grapples with some of the highest lung cancer rates in the country. As Nathalie Sturgeon reports, doctors hope early detection will lead to improved outcomes for patients – Sep 7, 2023

The New Brunswick government is investing $3.4 million to screen for lung cancer in order to improve outcomes for patients in the province.

Eligible participants will be between the ages of 50 to 74, who are currently smoking or have previously smoked, and have a history of 20 years or more.

The province has one of Canada’s highest rates of lung cancer.

Dr. Eshwar Kumar said the definitive link is the number of people who smoke, but also vaping.

“The people who vape have an increasing desire to smoke even those who never picked up a cigarette before I believe once they start vaping start smoking so in a way … in a subtle way to get people to start smoking,” he said speaking to reporters.

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He called on the province to more about limiting access to vaping across the province, on Thursday, saying research is emerging that vaping does lead to smoking cigarettes.

Most lung cancers are diagnosed as Stage III or IV, which means the cancer cells have already spread to other parts of the body. The highest rates of cancer deaths is lung cancer.

With the new program, slated to be implemented by spring 2025, about 3,200 people will be eligible for screening.

“We’re targeting people who are smokers, who are currently smoking, who have smoked … those will be decided by the committee, and then interviewed by coordinators and they’ll be supported and we’ll make arrangements for them to have a lose-dose CT just like we do with our colon program when we arrange for a colonoscopy,”  he said.

The New Brunswick Lung Association said it was excited to hear the news on the early detection screening, but hopes the process will be expedited and quick.

Melaine Langille with NBLA said New Brunswick, as well as the other Atlantic provinces, do have higher rates of smoking and lung cancer, but also radon.

According to Health Canada, radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is diluted and is not a concern.

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However, it is the No. 1 cause of cancer in non-smokers.

“When Health Canada looked across all the provinces, we noticed that New Brunswick and the other Atlantic provinces as well have disproportionate high pockets or uranium containing rock and, so, your risk of having that uranium under house and radon gas in your house is really really high,” she said.

The NBLA will provide tests for people looking to test radon levels in their home.

Kumar said the screening will be available across the province through both Horizon Health Network and Vitalite Health Network once it has been fully implemented.

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