Hamilton’s breast cancer survival rate concerning Worst in Ontario, says annual report
The Hamilton area has the worst five-year survival rate in Ontario for breast cancer in women.
Nearly 85 per cent of female breast cancer patients survived five years between 2009 and 2013 in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network, which includes Burlington.
That compares to the Ontario average of nearly 89 per cent and the highest survival rate of nearly 92 per cent in an annual provincial report released Wednesday by the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario.
“This is an important issue,” said Dr. Ralph Meyer, CEO of the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre. “We’re putting a lot of attention into it. The reasons for regional differences are complicated and not fully understood.”
Survival rates are the worst here despite having a lower incidence of breast cancer than the provincial average.
It is estimated 144 women per 100,000 population in this LHIN will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017.
To compare, the provincial average is just over 146 and the highest rate of just over 155.
“We believe our treatment for breast cancer is high quality,” said Meyer. “We follow the guidelines and we have some of the best researchers in the country.”
Lung cancer also has lower rates of survival in this LHIN.
Just over 18 per cent of lung can-
cer patients lived five years between 2009 and 2013 compared to the provincial average of nearly 21 per cent and the highest survival rate of just over 26 per cent. The lowest rate was 15 per cent.
Unlike breast cancer, there is also a much higher incidence of lung cancer in this area at just over 77 per 100,000 population compared to the Ontario average of 70.
Meyer believes socioeconomic determinants of health are responsible for the lower survival rates for both cancers.
He points to The Spectator’s 2013 Code Red series by investigative reporter Steve Buist that revealed people in poorer parts of Hamilton die of cancer at significantly higher rates than people in richer parts of the city.
“We think this relates to demographics,” Meyer said. “We recognize there are differences in our region. It’s important we address the socioeconomic determinants of health.”
Meyer says breast cancer screening is as low as 10 per cent in parts of Hamilton compared to 90 per cent in others.
It’s why a mobile coach is taking mammography directly to neighbourhoods and workplaces where women are least likely to get screened.
The number of Ontario Breast Screening Program sites in the LHIN has also been expanded to 22 from 19.
However, breast cancer screening continues to be an issue in this LHIN with rates below the provincial average and targets.
It’s getting worse instead of better flags the Cancer System Quality Index.
Meyer says some of the challenge has been caused by debates among researchers about the effectiveness of mammography.
“There has been some loss because of the international controversy,” he said. “We continue to recommend screening.”
The reasons for regional differences are complicated ... DR. RALPH MEYER CEO OF JURAVINSKI HOSPITAL