New report provides valuable information on breast cancer control across Canada

Canadian efforts to reduce the burden of breast cancer – the most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death among Canadian women – will soon benefit from a new resource. A just-released report presents cancer control leaders with today’s most comprehensive data measuring cancer control from prevention and screening through diagnosis and treatment to patient experience and end of life care, directing improvements to breast cancer care for women tomorrow.

Breast Cancer Control in Canada: A System Performance Special Focus Report is the first report compiling data from provinces and territories on key indicators across the breast cancer continuum,” says Dr. Heather Bryant, Vice-President, Cancer Programs, Clinical and Population Health with the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. “From mastectomy rates to radiation therapy wait times and clinical trial enrolment, the report helps us to see how we’re doing, where we’ve made advances and where there are opportunities for even more advancement.”

The report features newly available pan-Canadian data in a number of domains, including stage of breast cancer at diagnosis, vital information indicating whether the disease is being identified early, when treatments are most effective. Overall, the report shows the significant progress that has been made in addressing breast cancer, through data demonstrating that mortality rates have decreased steadily over the last 15 years, and that survival rates have improved over the same period.

The data, presented geographically and across various demographic groupings, also indicate regional variations and socio-economic disparities in control and care. For example, data show lower screening rates for lower income women while there are indications that reduced access to radiation therapy may influence treatment decisions for those in remote locations.

For Heather Chappell, Director, Cancer Control Policy at the Canadian Cancer Society, the report is a positive development for breast cancer control. “Breast cancer will take the lives of more than  5,000 Canadian women this year and it affects the quality of life of many more, with tens of thousands diagnosed each year. By helping to identify what is working well and areas for improvement, this report represents a significant step in ensuring that women across the country who are grappling with breast cancer get the best care possible.”

Dr. Carman Giacomantonio, Chief Medical Director of Cancer Care Nova Scotia, one of the many provincial/territorial and national partners behind the project, agrees with the report’s potential to drive quality in care. “Collaborative initiatives like this report complement the significant work done by individual provinces and territories. Pooling expertise and resources allows trends, patterns and gaps to emerge, telling important stories that cancer control leaders can act upon.”

“Ultimately,” adds Dr. Giacomantonio, “the establishment of a common assessment baseline together with a commitment to ongoing comprehensive data collection can be used to support evidence-based planning, management and policy development. Most importantly though, it can lead to better health outcomes for Canadian women affected by breast cancer.”

Breast Cancer Control in Canada: A System Performance Special Focus Report is part of the System Performance Initiative, which aims to make available meaningful and useful information on the performance of the cancer control system. The need for this work was identified in 2007 by the cancer control community and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer has been facilitating its implementation together with provincial cancer agencies and programs, and national partners including Statistics Canada, the Canadian Cancer Registry and the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), among others.