What’s working and what’s not in Canada’s cancer system – Report points to where action is needed

The 2018 Cancer System Performance Report compares provinces and territories in key areas of cancer care from prevention through to treatment and survivorship

Toronto, ON (November 13, 2018) – The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (the Partnership) has released their 2018 Cancer System Performance Report. This is the latest in a series of reports that shine a light on areas of Canada’s cancer system – from prevention and screening, through to treatment, survivorship and end-of-life care – to show what’s working and where improvements are needed.

10 years ago, there was little consistently available information on the quality of cancer care across Canada. Over the past nine years, the Partnership has been working with national partners, provincial cancer agencies and territorial health authorities to identify what data exist and can be measured, to drive change.

The 2018 report shows where improvement is needed. The reports are supported by several networks across the country and they help drive policy and practice changes to improve the delivery of cancer services and improve the patient experience.

What the current report found:

  • More Canadians are surviving cancer than ever before. As an example, survival rates for colorectal cancer have increased steadily with over 2,700 more Canadians surviving five years after being diagnosed, compared to 15 years ago.
  • Colorectal cancer screening programs, implemented in much of the country over the last 10 years in efforts coordinated by the Partnership, contribute to improvements in survival by catching cancers early, and often before they develop.
  • A high level of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, along with effective screening has the potential of eliminating cervical cancer in Canada, but the disease still kills 400 women every year – Vaccination rates in Newfoundland and Labrador are the highest in the country at 92 per cent compared to other provinces that have around 50 per cent and 60 per cent vaccination rates.
  • The Partnership endorses the World Health Organization’s declaration for eliminating cervical cancer and is working with a pan-Canadian network to achieve full HPV immunization and effective screening for cervical cancer in all provinces and territories.
  • Too many Canadians are still being diagnosed with preventable cancers – While lung cancer rates are declining across Canada1, people in Nunavut are 2.6 times more likely, and people in Atlantic Canada are up to 1.5 times more likely, to be diagnosed compared to British Columbia and Ontario which have the lowest rates.
  • The Partnership is helping jurisdictions across the country develop policies for reducing smoking and is launching a substantial effort to improve lung health in Nunavut.
  • Canadians are still waiting too long for diagnostic tests to identify whether they have cancer – Depending on which province they live in, women with an abnormal mammogram result can wait anywhere from a few days to 22 weeks or longer to get a definitive diagnosis.
  • The Partnership is actively working with the Canadian Breast Cancer Screening Network and experts across Canada to improve efficiencies in breast cancer screening in all provinces and territories and ensure most women are informed of their diagnosis well within the target of five weeks (or seven weeks if a biopsy is needed).
  • Patients going through cancer treatment suffer symptoms like fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression and are often unable to receive support they need to address their concerns.
  • The Partnership is working with partners across Canada to ensure hospitals and cancer centres are implementing tools that allow people with cancer to report physical and emotional challenges they face during treatment and get support from their care providers.

Read the full 2018 Cancer System Performance Report.

Addressing these care gaps and challenges requires a coordinated pan-Canadian effort focused on a common set of priorities and goals.  The Partnership is currently engaging thousands of Canadians across the country in the most comprehensive undertaking of its kind to modernize the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control.

This initiative will bring together Canada’s diverse voices to determine the country’s evolving priorities and challenges in addressing the burden of cancer and improving patients’ quality of life. The Partnership is coordinating public engagements to gain insights to guide priorities of all work to improve cancer control for the next decade and beyond. All Canadians are encouraged to participate by taking #30MinutesThatMatter and visiting www.cancerstrategy.ca.


Cindy Morton, CEO of the Partnership

“Canada is an international leader in our ability to measure and report on the performance of the cancer system. We use what we learn from these reports and work with partners across the country on system improvements to make a real difference to Canadians affected by cancer. We look forward to releasing the new Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control next year which will help guide the country towards further improvements in outcomes for the benefit of all Canadians.”

Craig Earle, medical oncologist and vice-president, Cancer Control at the Partnership

“International benchmarking data have shown that we do well in diagnosing and treating cancer, but we can do better. We’ve used data from system performance reports to engage oncologists and cancer agencies directly on areas where we know clinical practice improvements can be made – and we’ve shown that this effort leads to higher quality and more efficient care.”

Dr. Larry Pan, radiation oncologist at the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre

“For a small province like P.E.I., the ability to participate at the national level to learn and share evidence-based cancer control information and resources are of paramount importance. The Partnership’s system performance reporting has allowed us to collaboratively mobilize positive change using evidence and practice patterns from the national landscape to drive impactful policy and system quality improvement initiatives in our province, with the ultimate goal of delivering optimal cancer care for Islanders in an effective and sustainable manner.”

About the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

As the steward of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control (the Strategy) the Partnership works to implement the Strategy to reduce the burden of cancer on Canadians. The partner network – cancer agencies, health system leaders and experts, and people affected by cancer – brings a wide variety of expertise to every aspect of our work. After 10 years of collaboration, we are accelerating work that improves the effectiveness and efficiency of the cancer control system, aligning shared priorities and mobilizing positive change across the cancer continuum. The Partnership continues to support the work of the collective cancer community in achieving our shared 30-year goals: a future in which fewer people get cancer, fewer die from cancer and those living with the disease have a better quality of life. The Partnership was created by the federal government in 2006 to move the Strategy into action and receives ongoing funding from Health Canada to continue supporting partners from across Canada. Visit www.partnershipagainstcancer.ca.

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For further information: Nick Williams, Communications Officer, Media Relations, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Mobile: 647-388-9647, Nick.williams@partnershipagainstcancer.ca


1- Canadian Cancer Society. Lung cancer statistics. 2017. Available at: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/lung/statistics/?region=pe