In Canada, death from cancer is, like many things Canadian, factored by where you live. As you travel from west to east and from south to north, your chances of dying from cancer increase. Many cancer patients face extreme waits before they receive treatment; treatment differs from province to province and doctor to doctor. The result: cancer mortality rates vary substantially across the nation, with up to a 30% difference in age-adjusted mortality.

Some hard facts:

  • The structure of provincial cancer systems and the resulting quality of care vary greatly across the country
  • There are no uniform standards based on best practices, or no published or widely available standard for wait times, treatment options or quality of treatment
  • Getting breakthrough therapies to the front lines of care is an arduous, lengthy process
  • Very little accurate information about cancer care outcomes, beyond incidence and mortality rates, is known provincially
  • As a result, many Canadians choose to travel to other provinces or countries for timely and effective treatments, often at enormous expense

What do we need to do?

  • Canada needs national guidelines that describe what type of treatment is needed when, according to the cancer and its stage
  • Canadians need to know that health professionals will be there when they need them. This means, for example:
    • More residency and fellowship positions, including improving access for First Nations and Inuit people
    • More training positions for lab technicians, radiologists, oncology nurses, surgical oncologists and radiotherapy professionals
    • Ongoing training and continuing education for all professionals
  • Canada needs a national surveillance system that uses common definitions, captures and shares uniform information
  • Canadians urgently need a national cancer drug formulary that is informed by a public engagement process

When it comes to controlling cancer, we know what we need to learn. Research priorities have been identified that will cut cancer down to size. As a bonus, Canada’s uniquely diverse population and geography make us an ideal research base.

Cancer Facts