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Cancer stats sound alarm bell

Major looming rate increase big challenge for system: experts

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/5/2015 (813 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Roughly 18 Manitobans will be diagnosed with cancer every day this year, and Canada is facing a huge uptick in cases our health-care system is ill-prepared to handle.

The latest statistics released Wednesday by the Canadian Cancer Society report 2,800 Manitobans will die of cancer this year and another 6,700 will be diagnosed with the disease. Last year, those figures were lower -- 6,500 new cases and 2,700 deaths.

Sid Chapnick says squeamishness over testing for colorectal cancer is costing lives.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Sid Chapnick says squeamishness over testing for colorectal cancer is costing lives.

Epidemiologist Dr. Salah Mahmud says new drugs could help in the future.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Epidemiologist Dr. Salah Mahmud says new drugs could help in the future.

During the next 15 years, the number of new cancer cases in Canada is expected to rise about 40 per cent, prompting the organization to raise the alarm about the impact on health care and the need for more preventive measures.

University of Manitoba epidemiologist Dr. Salah Mahmud said experts always knew cancer rates would spike as baby boomers lived longer, but the new report puts specific numbers to the increase.

'It scares the heck out of me. I know a lot of the people I talk to believe it can't happen to them'-- Sid Chapnick, a colorectal cancer survivor in Winnipeg

"We imagined this might happen in 2040 or 2050, but this is only 15 years down the road," he said. "We don't have much time."

Though cancer experts say there is much Canadians can do -- eat better and exercise, quit smoking, get screened for breast, colorectal or prostate cancer -- the new predictions also mean the health-care system must get ready.

In Manitoba, lung cancer continues to be the most deadly form for men and women. More than 700 Manitobans, nearly two a day, will die of the disease this year, said the cancer society.

Prostate cancer continues to be the most common cancer for men. For women, it's breast cancer, which will kill 200 women this year.

By 2025, the province will see 8,255 new cases a year, the slowest growth rate of new cancers in Canada. Survival rates are increasing -- the five-year survival rate is 63 per cent -- but incidence rates are stagnant. More than 40 per cent of Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.

"It scares the heck out of me," said Sid Chapnick, a colorectal cancer survivor in Winnipeg and spokesman for the Denny's KickButt for Colorectal Cancer walk/run. "I know a lot of the people I talk to believe it can't happen to them."

Manitoba has one of the highest rates of colorectal screening in Canada at about 67 per cent. But the cancer society says the national figure should be 80 per cent, which could cut mortality rates significantly.

Chapnick said people have to get over their squeamishness when it comes to collecting stool samples with home screening kits.

"I found that people know about it and they talk about it but still say 'It's too yucky for me.' I know ColonCheck has done everything they can to take that fear and stigma out of that mindset, but for some reason it's just viewed as too yucky."

Erin Crawford, senior director at the society's Manitoba office, said the expected increase in cancer cases means governments will need to expand the gamut of cancer care, from diagnostic services to the number of doctors and nurses to support to family caregivers.

Health-care costs are on the rise, and governments already have trouble delivering the kind of timely care patients expect. An added 77,000 cases a year by 2030 will put huge pressure on the system, even as survival rates increase.

"Cancer is a lot of different things," said Crawford. "For some it's a stumbling block. For others, it's the end."

Mahmud said finding new drugs to prevent cancer or postpone the development of cancerous cells could also be key, as is boosting screening tests such as mammograms and the fecal test for colorectal cancer.

Those often don't reach the populations most at risk. Wealthier, well-educated people with healthy lifestyles are diligent about being screened, but new immigrants, First Nations people and the poor are less so, he said. Reaching them, perhaps through family doctors, could be critical to boosting survival rates.

 

-- with files from Carol Sanders

 

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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Updated on Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 6:48 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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