New report shows cancer screening participation could be improved

Cover of the Ontario Cancer Screening Performance Report 2016
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The number of people newly diagnosed with cancer in Ontario has increased over the last two decades and will continue to rise, largely due to an aging population. In the South West it is estimated that approximately 6,726 people will be diagnosed with cancer this year[1]. Certain cancers can be prevented or detected earlier by regular screening, but according to a new report released today by Cancer Care Ontario, many eligible Ontarians aren’t up to date with their screening tests.

The Ontario Cancer Screening Performance Report 2016 evaluates the performance of the province’s three organized cancer screening programs: the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), the Ontario Cervical Screening Program (OCSP) and ColonCancerCheck (CCC). It highlights cancer screening participation and retention, future program directions and also includes a feature on Ontarians who are overdue for screening. 

“Screening detects pre-cancerous changes or cancers at an early stage when they are easier to treat,” says Dr. Jan Owen, Regional Primary Care Lead for the South West Regional Cancer Program. “That’s why we encourage all Ontarians to speak with their doctor to find out if they’re eligible or overdue for screening.”

The findings in this report will be used to inform evidence-based and locally relevant strategies to strengthen cancer screening in Ontario.

To support primary care providers, Cancer Care Ontario has developed several innovative tools to assist them with cancer screening in their practice, including the Primary Care Screening Activity Report and the Electronic Medical Record tool. Cancer Care Ontario also sends cancer screening invitation and reminder letters to eligible Ontarians, and as of 2015, family doctors can opt-in to the physician-linked correspondence program to have their name included in colorectal cancer screening invitation, recall, and reminder letters.

Key report findings are:

  • Participation in breast cancer screening for all women has remained stable at 65 per cent of eligible women since 2011–2012. The proportion of women screened within the Ontario Breast Screening Program has continued to increase, up to 78 per cent in 2013–2014.Participation in cervical cancer screening has declined from 2009-2011 (68 per cent) to 2012–2014 (63 per cent). 
  • Retention in the OCSP has also declined, from 81 per cent among women screened in 2010 to 72 per cent among women screened in 2011. These decreases may be related to changes in screening guidelines which extended the recommended screening interval from annually to once every three years.
  • Older women were less likely than younger women to return for a subsequent Pap test. Retention was lowest in the oldest age group (women ages 60 to 66) at 68 per cent.
  • The proportion of eligible Ontarians who are overdue for colorectal cancer screening has continued to improve (decline) from 50 per cent in 2008 to 40 per cent in 2014. According to 2014 data, approximately 43 percent of eligible men and women (ages 50-74) in the South West are overdue for screening.

A copy of the Ontario Cancer Screening Performance Report 2016 is available at cancercare.on.ca/cancerscreeningreport.