Black Canadians and cancer: A group that addresses gaps in care

A support group in Calgary founded by a cancer survivor and his wife aims to bridge the gap in care for black Canadians.

When Bayo Oladele was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2016, he struggled to find support for black patients like himself.

“What I noticed was the absence of a community or support group where I could go to discuss what to expect as I move along my cancer journey,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday. “There’s no one to talk to.”

Oladele wanted answers about how the disease would affect people like him, but the resources he could find were mostly geared toward white patients.

“I needed someone who could really say, ‘Okay… this is the kind of thing you should expect,'” he explains.

That’s when he and his wife, Yinka Oladele, founded the Africa Cancer Support Group, a group that provides resources and a safe space for black, African and Caribbean Canadians to share their experiences.

“We give them emotional support so they can relieve their stress, they can find joy, they’ll be able to find a sense of hopelessness,” Yinka told CTV’s Your Morning. “We talk about mental health. We talk about what happens during the journey, during chemotherapy or during radiation therapy.”

Oladeles’ support team also offers Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey meals, meetings with medical professionals, free massage and acupuncture treatments, and will even provide financial assistance. for some medical bills.

Dr Doreen Ezeife, an oncologist in Calgary, says support networks like these are important and make a “huge difference” for patients.

“That support network allows them to share their experiences and share their cancer journey. And what happens is they also start exchanging information with other patients and discussing treatments. they’re getting and what they can expect for people who are in different parts of their cancer journey,” Ezeife told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.

These support networks are especially important for black Canadians, who often face more barriers in the health system.

“When we have cultural support groups like the Africa Cancer Support Group, what really does is it allows our Black patients to find that information and communicate effectively,” says Ezeife. more effectively with their health care providers.

A 2019 study found that black Canadian women had lower rates of breast and cervical cancer screening than the general population. Ezeife also points to census data in Canada showing that black Canadians have higher mortality rates from prostate cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer.

Bayo says part of this may be due to the stigma in many African communities towards talking about cancer.

“They think that if people know they have cancer, then they won’t associate with them anymore,” he said. “We want to let people know that cancer is not a death sentence if it is tested early, and the cancer is not your fault.”

While cancer registries in the US and UK collect data based on race, registries in Canada do not. Due to the lack of comprehensive data collection in this county, Ezeife said, the extent to which care gaps affect black Canadians, as well as the underlying reasons for these gaps, remain unclear.

“Is it because of access to screening? Is it because of access to clinical trials? Access to stem cell transplants? Do we need to increase education?” she speaks.

“Really collecting that race-based data on a regular basis can help us identify what the gaps are and design targeted interventions to close those gaps and really achieve equity in the community.” cancer care.”

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