News at Medicine - July 2020 - The cancer journey

The cancer journey
July 31, 2020
Cancer has become increasingly prevalent in First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis populations in recent decades in Canada. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of death for Indigenous peoples.
Dr. Jennifer Shea is hoping that her latest research project will help by making cancer care delivery more culturally responsive and respectful.

Dr. Shea works extensively with Indigenous communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her latest project, Courage, Compassion, and Connection - The journey to healing: exploring cancer pre-diagnosis for Indigenous peoples in Labrador, came from a stakeholder session held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in 2018 looking at improvements in the cancer journey.
Two main themes emerged from that session – challenges during pre-diagnosis and during transitions in care.

In July 2019 they met to kick off the project; their first face-to-face team meeting held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The team refinded our objectives and workplan for the next four years.

Supported by the Canadian Partnership for Cancer ($866,000 for 4 years), the project is led by the Nunatsiavut Government, in partnership with Memorial University, the NunatuKavut Community Council, Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation and the Mushuau Innu First Nation.
The team will explore the challenges and opportunities in the pre-diagnosis journey for Labrador’s Indigenous communities and identify tools or resources to make the journey more seamless.
“For First Nations, Inuit and Metis, a cancer diagnosis has obvious health implications but also social, financial and interpersonal challenges,” explains Dr. Shea. “Often people living in rural and remote communities have to leave their homes and familiar surroundings for health services in unfamiliar territory. Add to that language barriers and misunderstandings of cultural practices and beliefs which can make communication difficult.”
“Awareness and understanding of the colonial history of Canada and associated intergenerational trauma are important considerations within the context of health care.”
Based on the experiences of patients and family members, Dr. Shea and her team hope to learn from community members about their experiences during the pre-diagnosis, both the challenges and the strengths.
“While the project is cancer specific, we anticipate the responses, including the resources and tools, will be applicable across the health care system.”