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Cancer Care Ontario Blog

Ontario’s cancer survival rates among the best and getting better

Sep 23, 2019

Michael Sherar

Michael Sherar
Michael Sherar
President & CEO, CCO

“Will I live?” When a person is diagnosed with cancer, this is often their first question.

A new international study offers a promising answer for the people of this province: Ontario has among the highest cancer survival rates in the world.

The study, by the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP), reviewed almost four million cancer cases from 19 jurisdictions in seven high-income countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Norway, Ireland and Denmark) and compared the one-year and five-year survival rates for seven types of cancer (colon, esophageal, pancreatic, stomach, rectum, lung and ovarian).

Compared to the other participating jurisdictions, Ontario’s five-year survival rate ranks third overall. In terms of specific cancers, compared to other jurisdictions, Ontario ranks:

  • Third highest in survival for stomach cancer
  • Fourth highest for lung and colon cancers
  • Fifth highest for both ovarian and pancreatic cancers

The table below shows the relative rank of all jurisdictions in five-year survival, by cancer type.

Importantly, survival rates for all seven types of cancer improved in Ontario for the period 2010 to 2014, compared to 1995 to 1999 (as reported in the ICBP’s 2011 study). The five-year survival rate for colon cancer, for example, improved by 10 percent. As a result, almost 70 percent of people in Ontario diagnosed with colon cancer will survive at least five years; this is the highest rate in Canada (tied with New Brunswick). Even small improvements in population-based survival rates (e.g., a one-percent improvement in five-year survival for esophageal cancer) can translate into preventing a significant number of premature deaths.

Trends offer insights

In addition to being hopeful news for people with cancer, these results tell us that our work with our partners is making a positive difference.

What are we doing right? Ontario expanded organized cancer screening programs, for a total of four (cervical, colon and breast cancer, as well as a pilot for high-risk lung cancer screening). Clinical guidance, in the form of standards and guidelines, ensures that people across Ontario receive care based on the best available evidence. Evolving knowledge and technologies for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer are continually assessed, and those that deliver best outcomes are adopted. In addition, our capital investments, infrastructure, support for research and continuous performance evaluation all contribute to improved clinical practice and cancer service delivery.

The findings from ICBP, along with other performance indicators such as Ontario’s annual Cancer System Quality Index, also show us where we need to focus our improvement efforts. The Ontario Cancer Plan 2019 – 2023 provides a road map for how Cancer Care Ontario (in time, Ontario Health), the Regional Cancer Programs and health system partners, will work together to continue to reduce Ontarians’ risk of developing cancer and improve outcomes for those affected by the disease.

Progress begins with data

This study was made possible due to the collection and analysis of high-quality population-level data from Cancer Care Ontario’s partners across the province. By sharing reliable, standardized data and participating in international benchmarking studies, all participating jurisdictions in the ICBP – including Ontario – have the opportunity to identify opportunities for improvement, prioritize action and learn from the best health systems in the world.

Relative rank of all jurisdictions in 5-year survival, by cancer type, 2010-2014
Location Esophagus Stomach Colon Rectum Pancreas Lung Ovary Overall
Australia-Victoria 1 2 3 1 3 3 4 1
Australia-Western Australia 2 1 1 2 1 5 1 1
Australia-NSW 5 4 2 5 2 10 7 3
Ontario 8 3 4 6 5 4 5 3
Norway 4 7 8 4 9 9 2 5
British Columbia 5 9 5 9 6 6 10 6
New Brunswick 9 5 4 8 13 1 9 6
Manitoba 12 11 9 13 4 2 3 8
Alberta 7 12 7 12 7 7 14 9
Saskatchewan 14 10 8 10 8 8 8 9
Denmark 11 14 6 3 10 13 6 9
Ireland 3 6 13 15 10 11 16 12
Prince Edward Island 5 18 14 7 8 19 13 13
New Zealand 6 13 12 11 11 14 15 13
Nova Scotia 13 8 11 19 15 12 11 15
UK-England 8 15 16 16 12 15 12 15
UK- Northern Ireland 5 15 10 18 16 18 17 17
UK-Scotland 13 16 15 14 15 16 18 18
UK-Wales 10 17 17 17 14 17 17 19

Notes: 1 is highest. CCO determined the overall rank based on the average of the ranks of each cancer site by jurisdiction.

 

Questions about this blog post? Email us at publicaffairs@cancercare.on.ca.