Health

Canada's lung, colon cancer survival rates among highest of developed nations studied

New research shows where Canada ranks internationally in survival for seven types of cancer.

Survival rates for esophageal and rectal cancer lag in Canada

Researchers say that while survival rates continue to improve in high-income countries, likely thanks to improved treatment and earlier diagnosis, disparities persist. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

New international research shows Canada has among the highest survival rates for lung cancer and colon cancer when compared to other high-income countries, but lags in survival rates for esophageal and rectal cancer.

The data was published this week in the Lancet Oncology and looked at survival statistics for seven types of cancer in Canada, Australia, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The research comes from the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership. It collected data on 3.9 million patients with seven types of cancer: esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung and ovary. The cancers were diagnosed between 1995 and 2014, and followed up until Dec. 31, 2015.

Researchers say that while survival rates continue to improve in high-income countries, likely thanks to improved treatment and earlier diagnosis, disparities persist.

When it comes to lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada — statistics taken between 2010 and 2014 show the five-year survival rate in this country was highest at 22 per cent. It was lowest in the U.K. at 15 per cent.

Colon cancer survival rates were second-highest in Canada at 67 per cent, behind Australia's 71 per cent survival rate.

Meanwhile, Canadian esophageal cancer survival rates were among the lowest at 16 per cent — that's compared to Australia where patients had a 23.5 per cent survival rate.

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, one of the funders of the research, said while Canada's overall average survival generally compares well, there was often more disparity among the provinces than across the countries. The group said it strives to promote equity of access to quality cancer care.

One-year and five-year survival increased in each country across almost all cancer types from 2010 to 2014, but the highest one-year survival for most types was in Australia, followed by Canada and Norway.

The lowest one-year survival involved stomach, colon, rectal and lung cancer in the U.K.; and for esophageal cancer in Canada, pancreatic cancer in New Zealand and ovarian cancer in Ireland.

Data on more than 762,000 Canadian cancer cases in all provinces except Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador were included. 

With files from CBC News

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