December 21, 2010, Vancouver, BC – B.C. has encouraging survival outcomes in breast and ovarian cancer, taking top rank in a comprehensive data study that compares 12 jurisdictions from six nations with similar wealth and universal access to healthcare. In addition, B.C. colorectal and lung cancer patients have seen considerable increases in survival over the past decade.

“Cancer survival is a key measure of the effectiveness of our healthcare system,” says Vancouver-False Creek MLA Mary McNeil on behalf of Health Services Minister Colin Hansen. “As past president and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation, I can testify that all British Columbians should be proud of the cancer caregivers and researchers of this province—each one has contributed to the vast improvements in cancer survival rates over the past decade.”

The international study, published today in The Lancet, compares outcomes of four cancer types (breast, ovarian, colorectal, and lung) among six nations. The paper is the first publication from the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP), which is studying cancer outcomes from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The ICBP’s goal is to generate insight and understanding to help all partners improve cancer survival outcomes by optimizing cancer care policies.

Dr. David Levy, president, BC Cancer Agency says, “B.C. is a top performing region for cancer research and care, extending many lives, which shows in our cancer survival rates. While we are doing very well in comparison to the six nations in this study which have a very high quality of cancer care, our focus is on increasing survival rates for our patients and ensuring the best quality of life for survivors.”

B.C. has the highest one- and five-year survival rates in ovarian cancer from 2005-2007 across all of the jurisdictions in this study. The province also has a significant nine per cent increase in survival rates for all women with ovarian cancer and made an even bigger improvement of 16 per cent for patients aged 65-74 over the study period, 1995-2007.

“Ovarian cancer is a complex disease, difficult to diagnose and treat, which makes the leap in our survival rates thrilling,” says Dr. Dianne Miller, gynelogical tumour group chair, and surgical oncologist, BC Cancer Agency. “We are fortunate to live in a jurisdiction that values cutting-edge research. The knowledge gain happening within our multidisciplinary OvCaRe (Ovarian Cancer Research Program at BC Cancer Agency and VGH) Program is translating into more effective treatments and outcomes.”

Throughout the study period, the B.C. five-year survival rate for breast cancer is the highest of all jurisdictions examined and continues to improve over time. B.C. has seen an increase in five-year survival in all age groups, particularly a seven per cent increase in those under 45 years of age.

“Because breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in women, every increase in breast cancer survival has a significant impact on society. Generally, breast cancer in younger women has higher risk features, thus a 7 per cent absolute improvement is really both dramatic and encouraging” says Dr. Stephen Chia, breast tumour group chair, medical oncologist, BC Cancer Agency.

One-year survival rates for lung cancer rose six per cent over the study period for all patients and 16 per cent in patients aged 15-44 years. The rises in lung cancer survival rates are promising, as the disease is often silent until the late stages making it challenging to treat effectively. This paper will be followed by four areas of research that will examine aspects of cancer survival to study possible reasons for differences between ICBP partners. ICBP will examine: epidemiology (published today); population awareness and beliefs; beliefs, behaviours and systems in primary care; root cause of diagnosis and treatment delays; and treatment, co-morbidities and other factors.

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.ca. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency.

-30-

For more information:
Allison Colina
Communications Specialist
BC Cancer Agency
Tel: 604.877.6272
Email: allison.colina@bccancer.bc.ca