Saturday, February 11, 2017

Alberta cancer incidence, mortality rates trend downwards

Alberta Health Services - The rate at which Albertans are dying from cancer continues to decrease, according to recently released data from Alberta Health Services (AHS).  Alberta’s cancer incidence rates have declined by about 0.6 per cent annually between 2001 and 2014. Mortality rates have also decreased over the past 20 years, falling on average by 2.1 per cent annually between 2004 and 2014.

“We’re making tremendous progress with cancer control in Alberta,” says Dr. Matthew Parliament, Senior Medical Director, CancerControl Alberta. “Albertans with cancer are living longer now than they did 20 years ago, proving we are providing the right treatments and care.”

The data in the 2014 Report on Cancer Statistics in Alberta – released February 3 – shows the significant impact early detection and cancer screening can have on a patient’s rate of survival and years lived.

“When we find cancer early, we have the best chance of treating it,” says Dr. Huiming Yang, Medical Director, Screening, Population, Public and Indigenous Health. “Detecting cancer early can increase chances of survival – we already know this – but now we have even more data that proves how vital cancer screening really is. It literally saves lives.”

AHS has a number of effective screening and prevention programs, and continues to expand these services every year.

The Screening for Life program — which aims to reduce the number of Albertans who die from cancers, including breast and colorectal — provides information, education and support to Albertans, empowering them to make informed decisions and to take action to secure their own health by getting screened for cancer.

“We want Albertans to know what screening options are available to them and we need everyone to take personal responsibility for their health and well-being by asking their doctor about what cancer screening programs are right for them,” says Dr. Yang.

Breast, prostate, lung and colorectal were the most commonly diagnosed cancers in Alberta in 2014. Combined, they accounted for 52 per cent of new cases and about half of cancer deaths in the province. The data also showed Albertans had a significantly improved chance of survival when cancers were diagnosed in earlier stages (Stages I and II).

“Thanks to increased cancer prevention and screening efforts, new treatments, technological advances, and new research, more people are being diagnosed earlier, entering treatment sooner and living longer,” says Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Alberta Health. “Prevention and appropriate cancer treatment are priorities of this government as we focus on providing Albertans with the right care at the right time in the right place and by the right professional.”

Colorectal cancer patients diagnosed in Stages I and II are more than 90 per cent as likely to be alive three years after diagnosis as someone the same age who is cancer-free.

Patients diagnosed in Stage IV are only 21 per cent as likely to be alive after three years compared to someone the same age who is cancer-free.

Similarly, for breast cancer patients, the ratio is 98 per cent for a diagnosis in Stage I and II; dropping to 36 per cent for a diagnosis in Stage IV.

“We encourage Albertans who have no symptoms of cancer to get screened for breast and colorectal cancer in order to find changes early and treat them, if necessary,” says Dr. Parliament.

“We want all Albertans to make cancer screening part of their medical conversations.”

The 2014 Report on Cancer Statistics in Alberta is a bi-annual look at trends in new cases of cancer and deaths due to cancer over the past 20 years. The report provides detailed information on incidence, mortality, projections, the chances of survival, lifetime risk of developing/dying from cancer, and geographic variations for each of the top four cancers and childhood cancers.

In Alberta in 2014, there were about 17,985 cancer cases diagnosed and about 5,870 people who died from cancer.

AHS encourages all Albertans to be conscious of the variety of factors – including diet, tobacco use, physical activity and time spent unprotected in the sun – that can help prevent many of the most common cancers. Making changes can be difficult to do on our own, but together we can reduce the risk of cancer in Alberta by up to 45 per cent. Visit for support and information.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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