– NEWS RELEASE –

For Immediate Release

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Deadly Silence Meets Growing Cancer Crisis

Action needed to address rapidly increasing cancer rates

TORONTO, ON – A looming healthcare crisis is being met with deadly silence by political leaders, the Canadian Cancer Advocacy Coalition (CACC) reports in its third annual report, Cancer Care in Canada, Report Card for 2002.

"Health Canada reports incidence of cancer will skyrocket by 70 per cent by 2015, yet we lack a coordinated, well-funded national approach to dealing with this impending health crisis," said Pat Kelly, chair of the CACC. "Both the Kirby and Romanow reports talked about accountability, transparency and coordination of service. These important characteristics are absent from cancer care in Canada today."

"Every Canadian family has a cancer story, yet none of our elected officials are talking about it," she said.

Cancer Care in Canada, Report Card for 2002 was drafted after asking provincial and territorial cancer agencies and registries for information on incidence and mortality of the most common cancers; waiting times for radiation, chemotherapy and diagnostic tests; and spending on cancer care services.

Kelly said there were disturbing trends identified in the data gathering process. "We cannot manage what we cannot measure. Today, Canadians face a lack of standardized definitions from region to region," she said. "As a result, we cannot benchmark ourselves against other jurisdictions, know how much cancer care costs, how long we must wait for diagnosis or care, or measure our efforts to control the disease. Some regions can’t even provide data about mortality, prevalence, or survival rates."

The North American Association of Central Cancer Care Registries (NAACCR) tracks incidence and mortality rates among U.S. states and Canadian provinces and territories. The most recent report includes only seven Canadian cancer registries, comprising only one third of Canada’s population. The missing registries did not meet NAACCR’s criteria for inclusion.

The Report Card also found that surviving cancer may depend on where you live in Canada. Provincial decisions differ on access to diagnostic equipment, specialists and treatments, funding allocations, and new programs and research. Waiting times across the country also vary widely, where the information is even available. In BC, a patient may only wait one to two weeks between diagnosis and treatment. In parts of Quebec, they may wait two months.

"This is a very disturbing finding," said Dr. Bill Hryniuk, former director of cancer centres in Canada and the US and a member of a think-tank investigating short cuts to cancer control. "The disparity between regional waiting times is symptomatic of failure to share experiences in dealing with the problems as well as significant differences in planning and funding cancer programs between the provinces. We know there are shortfalls in the system – but we can’t properly address them without reliable data."

Waiting times across the country are up as a whole. First, Canadians wait an average of 7.3 weeks between their family doctor’s referral and seeing a specialist. Then they wait an average of 9.2 weeks between seeing the specialist and receiving treatment. "From my recent experience in the US, this is comparable to what Americans who do not have health insurance go through in order to get treated for a life-threatening illness," said Dr. Hryniuk, who recently returned to Canada after five years in the US.

"Advocacy for cancer care and cancer patients is extremely important to ensure Canadians get the best care. The CACC will continue to dig for data and we plan to go even further next year by investigating new benchmarks to see how Canada measures up against other G8 countries," said Dr. Hryniuk. "If no one else is going to do it, then the CACC will."

With Canada’s aging population, coupled with longer life expectancies, Health Canada estimates cancer incidence is growing at approximately seven per cent each year. Cancer is also a disease of older people. In men, more than seven in 10 new cases of cancer are in men over 60. In women, more than six in 10 new cases are in women over 60.

With Canada’s aging population, coupled with longer life expectancies, Health Canada estimates incidence of cancer is growing at approximately seven per cent each year. Cancer is also a disease of older people. In men, more than seven in 10 new cases of cancer are in men over 60. In women, more than six in 10 new cases are in women over 60.

"What are our provinces going to do to prevent cancer from overwhelming us? How is the system going to deal with this complex, chronic disease that will be diagnosed in fully one third of our citizens?" said Dr. Jack Chritchley, consultant in healthcare administration and former VP of the BC Cancer Agency in charge of Communities Oncology. "If the issue is not addressed at a national level, this is the harsh reality facing Canadians. Our country is neither equipped nor prepared to deal with a very real crisis."

Kelly said the CACC will continue to advocate for Canadians fighting cancer. "It’s time for our political leaders to demonstrate commitment to cancer care in Canada. Leadership is urgently needed to implement a comprehensive program to provide national standards in cancer care and control."

The full Cancer Care in Canada, Report Card for 2002 can be found at www.canceradvocacycoalition.com/reportcard or call 1-877-472-3436.The CACC is a national, grassroots advocacy organization with a mandate to make comprehensive, evidence-based cancer care a national priority. The CACC has focused efforts on increasing accountability and transparency in all aspects of public policy relating to cancer control, through periodic publications and public forums.

Media Contact: Jane Hamilton, See Jane Run Communications,

Tel: 905-337-2606, Cell: 905-466-2070, e-mail: jane@seejanerun.ca