Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic February 02, 2018 - 2:30 pm

On World Cancer Day, a continued focus on Inuit with cancer

TI, Cancer Care Ontario plan to survey Inuit in Peterborough, Ont.

JANE GEORGE
To help Inuit with cancer, the Nunavut-based publishing house Inhabit Media has released a new children’s book, intended as a story for Inuit children with cancer and their families. (IMAGE COURTESY OF INHABIT MEDIA)
To help Inuit with cancer, the Nunavut-based publishing house Inhabit Media has released a new children’s book, intended as a story for Inuit children with cancer and their families. (IMAGE COURTESY OF INHABIT MEDIA)

On Monday, the day after World Cancer Day on Feb. 4, the Ottawa-based community organization group Inuit Tunngasuvvingat is welcoming Inuit from in and around Peterborough, Ont. for an evening of fun, food and games at the city’s Knights of Columbus Centre.

At the same time TI, in partnership with Cancer Care Ontario, will invite everyone who comes to share their views on cancer and participate in a survey on their experiences with cancer.

TI’s Feb. 5 event follows up on the release of “Our Health Counts,” a report on the health status of Inuit living in Ottawa, and an earlier report, which looked at cancer risk factors and screening among Inuit in Ontario and other Canadian regions.

Cancer among Inuit is a big concern: overall among Inuit in Canada, cancer remains the second leading cause of death and it’s the leading cause of mortality in Nunavut.

In Nunavut, where cancer affects about 60 people a year, cancer death rates are the highest in the country, a report published in 2013 by the Canadian Cancer Society revealed.

Compared to the general Canadian population, Inuit now have a higher incidence of lung, liver, throat, nasal and salivary cancer.

And incidences of lung cancer among Inuit in Canada are higher than most other populations in the world. That’s linked to smoking rates among Inuit, which are three times the national average.

Other major risk factors for cancer that are prevalent in Nunavut include physical inactivity, poor diet, obesity and alcohol consumption.

Meanwhile, to improve cancer outcomes, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer has been gathering baseline information on treatment programs available to Inuit across the North to to highlight the need and push for better screening programs and cancer care in Inuit communities.

Health surveys of Inuit patients in the North have uncovered several weaknesses in the cancer-treatment process. These include the need for Inuit-specific health data and greater education and awareness about cancer among Inuit.

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada has also worked to develop culturally appropriate cancer awareness tools for Inuit and health care providers working in northern communities.

In 2014, the organization produced an Inuktut glossary of cancer-related terms in five dialects, covering dozens of basic terms for the symptoms and side effects of cancer, and more technical names for diagnostic techniques and treatments, like magnetic resonance imaging or radiation therapy.

The glossary introduced a new Inuktut term for the disease: kagguti, which comes from the word kagguaq, meaning “knocked out of natural order.” It replaces an earlier and more sinister term “annia aaqqijuajunnangituq,” which means” incurable ailment.”

But cancer among Inuit in the North still causes upheavals for families, as the recent plea from Richard Paton from Iqaluit shows.

Paton, in treatment for throat cancer in Ottawa, started an online fundraising page to help his family come to visit him while he’s far from home.

To help Inuit with cancer, the Nunavut-based publishing house Inhabit Media has also just released a new children’s book, intended as a story for Inuit children with cancer and their families.

A synopsis of “Jon’s Tricky Journey” tells how John loves his life in the North. But when he feels a pain that won’t go away, he must go to a children’s hospital in the South to find out what is wrong.

“A doctor there tells Jon he has cancer and will have to stay at the hospital for a while. Suddenly Jon’s life is upside down! But with a handful of tricks from the doctors and nurses, and new friends, Jon discovers ways to cope with some of the tricky parts of having cancer.”

The book is also accompanied by a resource guide for parents and caregivers.

If you’re in Peterborough on Feb. 5, the TI event takes place 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Centre, 317 Hunter Street West. For more information, call TI at 1-613-565-5885, ext. 241, or email liaison@tungasuvvingatinuit.ca.

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