Cancer in Canada: Latest report shows incidents increasing

The number of people in Canada who are living with cancer or have survived cancer has climbed to 1.5 million.

According to a new report released on Tuesday by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), the prevalence of cancer is “both a reason for optimism and concern.”

Ten years ago the prevalence figure was estimated to be one million, meaning more people are surviving now, but also more people are getting cancer.

Data from 2018 included that an estimated 1.5 million people currently alive in Canada had been diagnosed with cancer at some point in the previous 25 years. Almost 60 per cent of them were diagnosed five to 25 years ago – showing that the majority were living long-term with or after cancer.

“Investments in research are paying off in the form of better methods of timely detection and more effective treatments, and as a result, we’re now seeing more people surviving cancer and living longer with and beyond the disease,” Dr. Jennifer Gillis, senior manager of Surveillance at CCS said in a news release published on Tuesday. “There has been much accomplished for us to collectively celebrate but these new data also reveal that our work is not nearly done.”

The statistics show that approximately 193,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2012, while in 2017, the number of people diagnosed with cancer jumped to 206,000. The report estimates that at least 233,900 people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

Canada’s growing and aging population have been highlighted as two factors for the growth in cancer incidences.

“Increasing prevalence – more people being diagnosed and more surviving – creates long-term strain on our health-care system and underlines why we must work together to create a system that can evolve as patients’ needs evolve from diagnosis through survival or end of life care,” Gillis said.

The report said that the pandemic has caused delays and interrupted the care for many cancer patients, which may result in late-stage diagnoses.

“Timely and accurate data on cancer prevalence in Canada is critical to understanding the disease’s toll on society and our health-care system. Data are invaluable in assessing cancer outcomes, measuring how far we’ve come, and identifying areas for improvement,” said Jeff Latimer, director general of Statistics Canada’s Health Statistics Branch.

Data collected for the cancer report included that the two-year prevalence proportion was higher in people living in rural than urban areas, and that the relationship between income and prevalence varied depending on the type of cancer.

For example, those living in higher-income neighbourhoods had a higher prevalence of breast and prostate cancers, while those in lower-income neighbourhoods had a higher rate of colorectal and lung cancers.

And over the last 25 years, the proportion of cases diagnosed in eastern Canadian provinces were higher than in central and western Canada.

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