News Room - Updated Fall 2003

The CACC provides ongoing coverage and analysis of events, breakthroughs, and news on cancer care in Canada. Current CACC advocacy efforts include activity around Canada's national Cancer Care issues, and what that means to patients including updates from the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control.

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NEWS RELEASE - December, 2001

Report Card 2001 on Cancer Care in Canada

"Canada is being overwhelmed by cancer"December 13, 2001 - The Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada, a watchdog organization that tells Canadians what is really happening to our cancer system, has released its Cancer Care in Canada, Report Card for 2001 and the statistics are disturbing. Waiting Times

Based on a survey of all provinces, Canadians diagnosed with cancer will have different waiting times, access to treatment and survival rates, depending on where they live.

  • For the 12 months ending August 2001, the waiting time for radiation therapy ranged from 19 days in Manitoba to 47 days in Ontario and anywhere from 21 to 49 days in Alberta. British Columbia reports a median waiting time of 21 days. The Canadian Association of Radiation Oncologists recommends that radiation therapy should begin within four weeks of referral to the specialist.
  • Ontario estimates that in the 12 month period surveyed, the number of patients treated within the recommended four weeks ranged from 28 percent to 35 percent, while 40 percent of patients waited more than eight weeks from referral to the start of radiation therapy.
  • Waiting times to begin chemotherapy, from the date of referral to the oncologist to the start of treatment, are highest in Newfoundland at 60 days and lowest in British Columbia at 15 days, with Ontario reporting 34 days and Alberta reporting 21-35 days.

Dr. Denis Roy, CEO of the Quebec Provincial Fight Against Cancer, says the delays from diagnosis and referral to treatment "are of paramount importance because it is at the very beginning of treatment that we can make a difference."

Again this year, the BC Cancer Agency produced the best results for access to treatment and survival rates, but even the best system in the country has its problems. "Access to new drugs is more of a problem than wait times for therapy," said Dr. Susan O Reilly, head of the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of British Columbia and the BC Cancer Agency. "We may soon be in a position where provinces can t afford to pay for them and we will have to make some very tough decisions about what drugs or treatments drop off the list."Shortage of professionals

The culprit in these figures is a severe shortage of cancer care professionals in Canada, including nurses, oncologists and radiation therapists.

  • Patients in Atlantic Canada wait the longest for an appointment with an oncologist up to two months in Newfoundland.
  • Prince Edward Island sends all its cancer patients elsewhere for treatment and New Brunswick s shortage means that many patients are sent to Maine.
  • Manitoba is unable to deliver new radiation therapies, such as brachytherapy for prostate cancer, because of a shortage of radiation therapists.

Across Canada there are not enough people working in cancer care to meet the demands of patients. "The country doesn t understand the magnitude of the problem," said Dr. Bill Evans, Executive Vice President of Clinical Programs at Cancer Care Ontario.

Dr. Brent Schacter, President and CEO of Manitoba Cancer Care, believes "the greatest challenge is the heavier burden of the growing incidence of cancer. It creates problems in a number of areas. It changes the way we do our work." With the incidence of cancer growing at three percent per year, Canada does not have the professional resources to keep up. Spending

Cancer spending by the provinces also varies widely. The investment per person (dividing cancer agency budgets by the provincial population in 2000) is an indicator of waiting times and barriers to treatment.

These figures are for the cancer agencies only, and do not include the cost of other services, such as diagnosis, surgeries in community hospitals or home care visits. Cancer agencies are responsible for research, education, prevention programs, radiation and systemic therapy.

  • The highest annual spending occurs in Alberta and British Columbia (at $45 and $44 per person respectively);
  • The lowest per capita spending is in Newfoundland, at approximately $18 per year;
  • Saskatchewan ($35) Nova Scotia ($31) and Manitoba ($30) are mid-range;
  • Ontario spends approximately $21 per person on cancer research, treatment and education per year, barely beating Newfoundland for the smallest amount of per capita spending.
  • Quebec and New Brunswick do not have organized cancer agencies and could not report on their cancer care spending. PEI sends it cancer patients elsewhere for treatment.

Data Collection

Data collection by provinces is so underdeveloped that only five provinces could report on survival rates, only six have any information about waiting times for radiation therapy or the interval between referral and the start of treatment. Poor data collection means that Canadian organizations responsible for cancer care do not know if they are delivering the care that people need.

The full report contains more details on all these subjects, plus:

  • the prevalence of cancer as reported by six provinces (the others don t know);
  • five and ten year survival rates for the top four cancers (in the very few provinces that collect such information);
  • the priorities for improvement identified by each province; and
  • a special report on Cancer Care Ontario.

Web Cast - Breast Cancer Care & Treatment - Expert Panel
November 14th 200
1 8pm EST -
Download PDF  Download Word Doc

Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control Update
1st Oct, 2001 - Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control Update - PDF English Version
1st Oct, 2001 - Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control Update - PDF French Version

CCO Documents
2 June, 2001: Press Release, Advocacy Group Alarmed at Restructuring of Ontario's Cancer Agency
8 June, 2001:
Cancer Patients Want Voice in Restructuring of Ontario s Cancer Agency

The CACC is also focusing advocacy efforts on the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control
(, a wide-ranging public policy document that will make much-needed, sweeping changes to the entire cancer spectrum. Please click on the documents immediately below to take part.

Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control Action Documents
21 February, 2001:
CACC Invitation to Conference Participants and Advocacy Action Plan
21 February, 2001: CACC Report on the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control
21 February, 2001:
The Personal As Political: Tell Your Story to Your Politicians

15 December, 2000: Ontario government increases spending on cancer research

24 November, 2000: News release: Federal Party Leaders Fail CACC 'Cancer Test'
Patient Advocates Ask, Never Mind Taxes Who Will Cut Cancer?

TORONTO, 24 November, 2000  Canada s would-be Prime Ministers have flunked the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada s Cancer Test despite mounting evidence that cancer patients are better off getting treatment in most U.S. states than here at home....

16 November, 2000: News release: Federal Party Leaders urged to take 'cancer test'
Appeal follows further evidence of differences in cancer outcomes between Canada and U.S.

TORONTO, Nov. 16 /CNW/ - Armed with statistics showing that some Canadian provinces seem to lag behind American states with regard to the outcomes for certain types of cancer, the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada (CACC) today took action to push for specific commitments on cancer issues from the federal party leaders in the current election campaign.