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New report sheds light on Newfoundland and Labrador's cancer statistics

According to the 2018 Provincial Cancer Report released Thursday by Eastern Health’s provincial cancer care program, colorectal, lung, bladder, kidney, stomach and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are the other common cancers diagnosed for men, while for women, it’s colorectal, lung, uterus, thyroid, melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s.
According to the 2018 Provincial Cancer Report released Thursday by Eastern Health’s provincial cancer care program, colorectal, lung, bladder, kidney, stomach and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are the other common cancers diagnosed for men, while for women, it’s colorectal, lung, uterus, thyroid, melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s. - 123RF Stock Photo

Wait time high for clarification of mammography biopsies

The most common type of cancers diagnosed in Newfoundland and Labrador remain prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women, according to a new report on cancer in the province.

Colorectal, lung, bladder, kidney, stomach and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are the other common cancers diagnosed for men, while for women, it’s colorectal, lung, uterus, thyroid, melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s, according to the 2018 Provincial Cancer Report, released Thursday by Eastern Health’s provincial cancer care program.

Lung cancer remains the most deadly form of cancer for men and women in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"...using this data we can identify what is working well in one region and bring these best practices to other areas of the province." — Elaine Warren

The health authority used age-standardized mortality rates — the number of deaths due to cancer per 100,000 of the N.L. population in a certain timeframe — in its reporting of the rates, and the mortality statistics are based on rates between 2008-14.

Among the four regional health authorities, the highest mortality rate for breast cancer was seen in Eastern Health — which has the largest population in the province— although rates were similar across the province. All were above the national average.

Mortality rates for colorectal cancers were higher for males than females in all regional health authorities. Newfoundland and Labrador, as is well reported, has the highest incidence of mortality from this form of cancer in the country. However, from 2006-12, the provincial mortality rates for this type of cancer in both males and females declined significantly — 27 per cent for men and 11.41 per cent for women.

The report notes some success with the roll-out of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) — a total of 14,860 FIT kits were requested in 2016.

“One of the highlights of this report is we now have a benchmark for regional screening and diagnosis rates for certain cancers, including colorectal cancer,” Dr. Jehan Siddiqui, clinical chief of the cancer care program, stated in a news release about the document.

“Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the country. Since the implementation and roll-out of the FIT test, we are seeing increased participation in the colon cancer screening program. This will translate into better outcomes for our patients as screening will result in earlier diagnosis and, therefore, more effective treatment of colorectal cancer.”

The provincial five-year survival ratio was lowest for lung cancer — 22.10 per cent — and highest for female breast cancers— 90.80 — for those diagnosed between 2008-10.

The report also looked at a range of other topics related to cancer, including the success of various screening programs. 

An artist's rendition of a healthy long compared to an unhealthy lung. Lung cancer remains the most deadly form of cancer for men and women in Newfoundland and Labrador.
An artist's rendition of a healthy long compared to an unhealthy lung. Lung cancer remains the most deadly form of cancer for men and women in Newfoundland and Labrador.

For instance, the average rates around the province for women having had a pap test within three years were between roughly 76 and 78 per cent for the years 2012 and 2013. But that’s below the target of 80 per cent set by the Pan-Canadian Cervical Screening Network.

Labrador-Grenfell Health was the only regional health authority that met the target both years, although Central Health managed to do so in 2013. Western Health, on the other hand, met the target in 2012, but not 2013.

Participation rates for mammography screening were also lower than the target in the Eastern Health region for the years 2011 and 2012. The target is 70 per cent and both Western and Labrador/Grenfell exceeded the targets in each year.

In terms of diagnosis statistics, none of the authorities attained the 90-percentile target wait time — five weeks — for women to receive further clarification of their mammography results if they had an abnormal breast screen that did not require a tissue biopsy. That means 90 per cent of people didn’t get that clarification within the target, recommended time.

It’s much worse for the number of women requiring a tissue biopsy. The number of them who got clarification on their abnormal mammography results within seven weeks or less — the target — was 33 per cent in central, 40 per cent in eastern and 69 per cent in western.

“That is a poor performance on our part and we are working to improve,” Janet Templeton, director of the cancer care program, told The Telegram Thursday.

On another note concerning prevention, the province has the highest rate of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations in the country for both men and women, Templeton said.

She said there will be an in-depth review of the data to help improve the situation.

According to the report, 62.8 per cent of cancer patients said the quality of the care they received was excellent; 26.6 per cent said it was very good; and 8.2 per cent said it was good; 1.7 per cent said it was fair, and 0.6 per cent said it was poor.

The rate of cancer in the province per 100,000 population for the years 2013-15 was 593.71 for men and 515.38 for women.

The highest incidence for both men and women were in Eastern Health region, followed very closely by western for women.

The report is the first of its kind written by the Provincial Cancer Care Program, Eastern Health said in a news release about the report.

“It gives us a much broader perspective on where we are as a province and what areas we need to focus on in the future. For example, using this data we can identify what is working well in one region and bring these best practices to other areas of the province,” said Elaine Warren, vice-president responsible for the Provincial Cancer Care Program of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The report is available online.


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