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Cancer statistics in the N.W.T.

A look at some of the statistics from around the territory.

Posted: Apr 24, 2012

  • More than 45% of cancers in the N.W.T. were diagnosed at an early stage (stage 0 to stage II). On average, just over 20% of cancer patients in the N.W.T. were diagnosed late at a stage IV. This is similar whether the patient resided in Yellowknife, regional centres (i.e. Hay River, Inuvik, or Fort Smith) or smaller communities.

    There are 5 stages of cancer, from 0 to IV, to describe the progression of cancer:

    • Stage 0 carcinoma in situ
    • Stage I cancers are localized to one part of the body
    • Stage II cancers are early locally advanced
    • Stage III cancers are also late locally advanced
    • Stage IV cancers, often metastasized, or spread to other organs or throughout the body

  • The number of new cancers and cancer deaths in the N.W.T. has more than doubled between 1992 and 2009. This is largely due to an aging population where the number of people over 60 years old has doubled. Within the last three decades, cancer mortality has become the leading cause of death in the N.W.T., whereas injury and poisoning has decreased as well infant mortality

    The overall rates in N.W.T. males were significantly lower than Canadian rates. The overall rates in N.W.T. females were similar to Canadians. This is based on age-adjusted rates.

    • More that 45% of cancers in the N.W.T. were diagnosed at an early stage (stage 0 to stage II)
    • Just over 20% of cancer patients in the N.W.T. were diagnosed late at a stage IV
    • Some cancers are tough to detect.

    These cancers were detected at stage IV:

    • 42% lung
    • 25% colorectal
    • 11% prostate
    • 8% breast cancer

    We will be looking at NWT late stage of diagnosis data and comparing this to Canada-wide data in the next cancer report scheduled for the end of 2012. We also encourage all northerners to go for regular physical exams, so they can get the proper screening for early cancer detection that is recommended for their age and stage of life. Northerners also need to go to their community clinic or health centre if they have concerns that something is wrong.

  • For men, the top three cancers are:

    • colorectal (23%)
    • prostate (21.6%)
    • lung (14.7%)
    For women the top three cancers are
    • breast (34.5%)
    • colorectal (17.6%)
    • lung (13.1%)
    For people 60 years old and over, the most common cancers are:
    • colorectal (23.6%)
    • lung (19.0%)
    • prostate (16.0%)
    For people between 45-59 years, the most common cancers are:
    • breast (25.8%)
    • colorectal (19.5%)
    • lung (9.9%)

  • The overall rates in N.W.T. males were significantly lower than Canadian rates. The overall rates in N.W.T. females were similar to Canadians. This is based on age-adjusted rates.

  • The overall rates in NWT males were significantly lower than Canadian rates. The overall rates in NWT females were similar to Canadians. This is based on age-adjusted rates.

    • Lifestyle decisions (e.g. healthy diets, exercise, smoking, drinking), note healthy choices will not guarantee a person will not get cancer, rather it will help reduce the risk.
    • Growing older - increasing age is a risk factor for cancer.
    • A person’s individual genetic makeup – a person with a family history of cancer is more likely to be predisposed to cancer. This is particularly true for colorectal cancer.
    In terms of prevention:
    • Stop smoking. This can cause lung cancer. 36% of NWT residents over 15 are smokers, which is twice the Canadian average
    • Don't drink to excess. This can cause liver cancer. The number of heavy drinkers in the NWT is more than double the Canadian average
    • Exercise and eat healthy food. This can reduce your risk of colorectal and other cancers. 63% of NWT residents are overweight compared to the national average of 51%
    • N.W.T. health insurance pays the cost of approved cancer treatment provided in publicly-funded facilities.
    • Medical travel benefits are provided for residents who need to travel to Yellowknife or to Alberta for therapy.
    • N.W.T. health insurance does not provide coverage for services in private facilities. The request for a chemotherapy that is not on the NWT formulary requires review from the department’s medical advisor. An exemption is recommended if sufficient, credible evidence indicates the proposed chemotherapy is effective.

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