In recognition of World Cancer Day, the BC Cancer Foundation (BCCF) is encouraging the community to help make a difference to support life-saving research and enhancements to cancer care.
“Cancer remains the number one health challenge of our generation and generations to come,” BCCF president and CEO Sarah Roth says.
BCCF is the fundraising partner of BC Cancer, which offers a distributed model of care throughout the province with six BC Cancer centres in British Columbia, providing one comprehensive cancer control system.
BCCF partners with BC Cancer to help overcome inequities in healthcare that lead to higher cancer mortality rates, particularly for marginalized populations and those living in geographically isolated regions.
“Given the geography of British Columbia and how widely distributed the population is, even with six BC Cancer sites, a substantial number of patients do still have to travel for their cancer care and struggle with the financial burden of travelling and leaving their families,” Roth says.
This geographical challenge is something that BCCF and BC Cancer have worked together to address. A recent fundraising campaign raised $12 million to expand PET/CT, state-of-the-art imaging technology used to detect cancer earlier, to Kelowna and Victoria.
"Two and a half years ago, there were only two PET/CT machines in B.C., and both were in Vancouver. This was a burden on families who had to travel long distances for this kind of diagnostic imaging,” Roth says. “This is a great example of how we have helped reduce access barriers for cancer patients.”
The recent flooding in the Fraser Valley prompted significant travel disruptions. BCCF moved quickly to provide extra support for patients and families through its Patient Comfort Fund.
“Cancer patients and their families were hit hard during the flooding,” Roth says. “The Patient Comfort Fund made it possible for these families to access support for essential items like transportation, accommodation and grocery vouchers during this difficult time.”
A further challenge is that marginalized populations often face equity obstacles when accessing healthcare. BC Cancer research shows that First Nations populations in B.C. have lower cancer survival rates and higher cervical and colorectal cancer rates.
BC Cancer in partnership with First Nations Health Authority is undertaking various initiatives and projects designed to help support Indigenous communities and geographically isolated areas. Such programs include a recently launched pilot project to mail cervical screening kits to patients in Central Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.
The at-home screening kits will have all the necessary equipment to self-screen for high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV), from collecting a sample to mailing it back. Screening for HPV has been demonstrated to be a highly accurate cervix screening test, identifying people at risk for cervical cancer earlier.
Roth has occupied the CEO role at BCCF for just under six years and has spent that time raising the profile of the organization, laser-focused on fundraising and working with her BC Cancer colleagues to get money directed to life-saving research and treatments across the province.
“If you’re a cancer patient, there’s a strong chance that donor dollars have impacted your cancer care in some way, whether it’s a new treatment, a clinical trial, new equipment, or support services,” Roth says.
Roth comes to BCCF after over 25 successful years as a fundraising professional, including a role at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where she led a $120-million campaign to build the first freestanding children’s hospital. She also served eight years as the Assistant Dean of Development and Alumni Relations at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine.
“It is an honour and a privilege to be the CEO of BC Cancer Foundation, and to work with the incredible minds at BC Cancer and our generous donor community,” Roth says.
“What gets me up every day is that there are so many families facing this disease and I want to bring hope and comfort to them,” Roth says.
“Every dollar counts.”
To donate, and help close the cancer care gap today, visit bccancerfoundation.com/worldcancerday.