Pathology tests related to breast cancer treatment - The Canadian Cancer Society feels confident about breast cancer treatment offered in Quebec

    We favourably welcome Minister Yves Bolduc's reviews and quality control

    The Canadian Cancer Society wants further studies to be done to determine
    the scope of the problem regarding breast cancer pathology

    MONTREAL, June 3 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is
pleased to see that Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Yves
Bolduc, has mandated an expert panel to give him concrete recommendations by
the end of the week regarding which breast cancer patients should have their
pathology tests reviewed.
    The CCS believes that at this stage, it is essential to determine if
certain breast cancer treatments should be reassessed and which women should
have their treatments reassessed.
    "We're pleased with the Quebec government's decision in this matter,"
stated Suzanne Dubois, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Society's
Quebec Division. What matters to the CCS is the well-being of people living
with cancer. In the past week, too many women (and their loves ones) have been
concerned about the care they have received or will receive to treat their
breast cancer. The CCS believes that the measures taken by Minister Bolduc are
a positive step toward quickly reviewing whatever tests need to be reviewed."

    Additional government measures sought by the CCS

    Beyond the re-evaluation of certain analyses, the CCS is asking the
Minister of Health and Social Services to set up other measures to ensure that
pathology tests offered to Quebecers meet the highest possible quality control

    - A new in-depth study pursuant to the "quality control pilot project"
      begun by Dr. Louis Gaboury, President of the Association des
      pathologistes du Québec, should be done. This study will enable
      identifying the scope of the problem and validating whether or not new
      quality control measures will have a positive impact on the differences
      observed between labs and if other measures need to be taken.
    - Minister Bolduc announced that all health establishments which conduct
      pathology tests must undergo independent quality control. This type of
      control means that test samples will be double-checked by other labs in
      the province or elsewhere in Canada. The CCS applauds this initiative,
      but is also asking the Minister to designate one or more central labs.
      The goal here would be to have at least one reference centre eventually
      develop and apply internal and external quality control measures, as
      well as specific criteria, such as testing a minimal number of cases
      per year. Among other things, this reference centre should also be
      periodically validated by other Canadian or international reference
    - All labs should be affiliated with the designated reference centre and
      should follow all quality control protocols outlined by the
      establishment(s) in question.

    "These requests are complementary and tie into the corrective measures and
actions recently announced by Minister Bolduc and the Collège des médecins du
Québec," said Dr. Gilles Pineau, a scientific advisor for the CCS's Quebec
Division. "What matters to the CCS is that rigorous short-, mid- and long-term
quality control and monitoring measures be put into place to ensure the
well-being of Quebecers."

    Message from the CCS for those touched by breast cancer

    Recent news reports have shown possible deficiencies in our healthcare
system which reminded us that we must remain vigilant when it comes to the
fight against cancer. But the CCS wishes to reassure patients that they can
have faith in the treatments they have received or will receive.
    To this end, the CCS wishes to reiterate that the quality of breast cancer
screening through mammography has never been in question in the discussions of
the past days. The CCS would therefore remind all women between the ages of 50
and 69 that a control mammogram every two years remains the best way to detect
breast cancer at an early stage and to increase their odds of successfully
being treated if they are diagnosed with the disease.
    Breast cancer patients who are concerned about their situation and who
wish to be reassured should initially contact their healthcare team,
especially their primary physician or nurse. The healthcare professionals know
the medical situation of their patients better than anyone and are in the best
position to answer any questions you or your loved ones may have.
    People can also call Info-Santé by dialling 811 any time of day, seven
days a week, to speak to a health professional.
    The CCS also offers information and support to those living with breast
cancer. To learn more about breast cancer or how it is treated and prevented,
contact the Canadian Cancer Society's Cancer Information Service at 1 888
939-3333 (Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) or read our special report
on breast cancer at

    The CCS vows to stay on top of the situation

    "We believe that our government and our health professionals have the best
interests of patients at heart and it is our hope that they will quickly set
up the necessary resources to respond to the public's concerns. Rest assured
that the CCS will continue to closely monitor the situation and to advocate
for all those touched by cancer," added Dubois.

    Which breast cancer pathology tests are in question?

    Ever since the results of a study by the Association des pathologistes du
    Québec were revealed on Wednesday, May 27th, questions regarding the
    quality of certain breast cancer pathology tests (i.e. hormone receptor
    status and HER-2 status tests) have dominated the news.

    A hormone receptor status test is used to determine if hormones are a
    contributing factor to breast cancer. Close to two-thirds of all breast
    cancers are affected by hormones. These cancers are said to be hormone-
    dependant. If the hormone receptor status test is positive, the patient's
    physician can prescribe an anti-hormone drug, as blocking the production
    of hormones will make the cancer less likely to spread and will improve
    the patient's chances for survival.

    During the course of breast cancer treatment, the status of a patient's
    HER-2 is also tested to see if it is contributing to the cancer. HER-2 is
    a protein found on the surface of breast cells. Each healthy breast cell
    contains two copies of the HER2 gene. Sometimes too many copies of the
    HER2 gene are present in a cell, which leads to too much HER2 protein
    being made. This is called over-expression of HER-2. To offset this
    abnormal cellular activity which is present in 15-20% of all such breast
    cancers, the patient will be prescribed Herceptin, an antibody that
    targets and blocks the function of HER-2.

    In both cases, the goal of treatment is to improve the survival rate and
    to prevent a recurrence.

    Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canadian women,
    next to lung cancer.  In 2009, 22,700 new cases will be diagnosed
    nationwide, including 6,000 in Quebec. Fortunately, the five-year
    survival rate continues to improve - in Canada, it is currently 87% -
    mainly because cancers are being detected earlier and treatments are more

For further information:

For further information: André Beaulieu, Senior Advisor, Public
Relations, Canadian Cancer Society, Quebec Division, (514) 393-3444,

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