Hamil­ton’s breast can­cer sur­vival rate con­cern­ing Worst in On­tario, says an­nual re­port

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JOANNA FRKETICH

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

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