Death from cancer on a steady decline

Mortality rates for cancer fell 2.8 per cent yearly between 2004 and 2010, according to new reports from Alberta Health Services.

Mortality rates for cancer fell 2.8 per cent yearly between 2004 and 2010, according to new reports from Alberta Health Services.

“That, I think without a doubt, is due to our improved treatment and care that we’ve been able to offer. I think that’s a huge source of hope as well,” Dr. Paul Grundy, AHS Cancer Care senior vice-president and senior medical director, said on Monday when the 2010 Report on Cancer Statistics in Alberta and the Alberta Cancer Registry Report were released.

In 2010, a total of 5,526 Albertans died from the disease and cancer accounted for 27 per cent of deaths — the second leading cause of death after circulatory system disease.

Grundy said people sometimes wonder if the money they keep donating towards cancer research is making a difference.

“Actually, there’s a lot happening and here’s some bottom-line proof. Fewer people are dying of cancer and people are living long who do have cancer. That’s got to be encouraging.”

Later this year, radiation treatment will be available for the first time in Red Deer. The expanded Central Alberta Cancer Centre is expected to open in October or November at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Grundy said it means Central Albertans will have better access to treatment and clinical studies.

“Our estimate is about 80 per cent of patients in Central Zone will be able to receive their full cancer treatment planning and treatment in Red Deer. But there will be about 20 per cent of patients who will have more rare diseases, which will require more complicated treatment, which we just can’t reproduce in Red Deer.”

Two radiation oncologists have been recruited and will arrive in Red Deer in the spring.

Grundy said there is no significant difference in cancer statistics based on where people live the province.

In 2010, the provincial cancer rate for males was 413 per 100,000 and the mortality rate was 158.

The rate of cancer for females was 348 per 100,000, with a mortality rate of 118.

For 35 to 64 year olds, cancer accounted for 37 per cent of deaths — more than circulatory and digestive system disease combined.

“Our rates may be going down, but when you adjust for the age of the population and for population size, the numbers are up,” Grundy said.

In 2010, 15,232 cancer cases were diagnosed in Alberta.

The most commonly diagnosed cancers were breast, prostrate, colorectal and lung.

Lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women.

Grundy said by 2030, cancer cases are expected to double due to the aging and growing population.

“If we’re going to be able to manage this, we really have to do a better job at preventing more cancers because it’s going to be hard to manage that many people with cancer with our resources.”

He said cancer prevention programs have made a difference.

“We believe that we’re seeing the positive impact now of decreasing lung cancer rates of men from the 1990s. The downside of that is the figures show the lung cancer rate for women is still going up.

“I think the men’s statistic proves we can make a difference here and the women’s statistic is saying we’re not doing enough yet.”

But Albertans must also do their part, Grundy said.

“I can change my risk factors for cancer, but I can’t change yours. Only you can do that.”

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