Care improving for colorectal and other cancer patients - but still room for improvement
A comprehensive report released today by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer provides a snapshot of how Canada's cancer system is performing in key areas from prevention through to patient experience and outcomes. Produced in collaboration with cancer programs in each province and territory, the 2012 Cancer System Performance Report is intended to inform cancer control planning and delivery across the country by enabling the identification of best practices and areas for improvement. For example, while the report shows that Canada has shown steady improvements in screening people for colorectal cancer and treating people with the disease, it also suggests where health system planners and clinicians might focus their efforts to make further advances.
"Having high-quality data on the performance of the cancer system and using it to plan and make decisions is critical to reducing the impact of cancer on Canadians," said the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, federal Minister of Health. "This report and the actions that will be taken as a result of it highlight the value of our government's investment in the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer as part of a coordinated approach to overcoming this complex set of diseases."
Rates for colorectal cancer screening up, yet variations in treatment remain
The report shows that the percentage of average risk Canadians who are up-to-date with their colorectal cancer screening tests has improved over time in the vast majority of provinces and territories, with the national average rising from 38 per cent in 2009 to 43 per cent in 2011. While colorectal cancer screening rates are not as high as participation in screening for breast or cervical cancer, which have existed for a longer period of time, the progress made since 2009 so far suggests that recent provincial efforts to develop and implement organized screening programs have been successful.
"As a colorectal cancer survivor who received excellent care, I encourage anyone over 50 to be screened - early detection is important, when the disease is usually easier to treat," said Archie McCulloch , a retired scientist from Fall River, Nova Scotia. "I'm encouraged that more Canadians are now being screened; these programs can literally save lives."
In the area of colorectal cancer treatment, the report shows a steady increase in the percentage of patients with locally advanced rectal cancer receiving radiation prior to surgery: the average rate for this recommended standard of care rose from 40 per cent in 2007 to 49 per cent in 2009. However, analysis suggests that not all patients are being treated according to the recommended guidelines with almost a quarter of patients receiving post-operative radiation instead of the preferred pre-operative radiation. An additional sixth of patients are not seen by a radiation oncologist at all. The report also reveals some differences in treatment rates among provinces, and also between patient age groups, with older patients less likely to be treated according to the recommended guidelines for chemotherapy and radiation therapy.