Third annual web report evaluates Ontario's cancer system

    Significant gains in cancer treatment; screening and end-of-life care
    need attention

    TORONTO, April 24 /CNW/ - Results of the 2007 Cancer System Quality Index
- an online report that tells us how Ontario's cancer system is performing -
shows that cancer treatment wait times and quality are improving, but
screening rates have stalled and more needs to be done to support people dying
of cancer.
    Launched in 2005 and updated annually, the Index is a publicly available
web site that uses 30 measures to assess cancer system performance across the
full spectrum of cancer care. A first of its kind in North America, the Index
is used to improve cancer services and give health care providers and the
public insight into cancer care.
    "We are making significant gains in key areas of the cancer journey, and
we are clearly falling short in others," said Michael Decter, Chair, Cancer
Quality Council of Ontario. "Health care professionals and organizations are
using the Index to improve cancer prevention and care for patients. It is
making all of us better informed about cancer."

    The Cancer System Quality Index highlights areas of progress including:

    -   Smoking rates continue to go down as a result of Ontario's
        comprehensive Smoke-Free Ontario strategy, but Ontarians remain at
        significant risk in areas that are important targets for cancer
        prevention. Ontarians are facing growing rates of obesity, not eating
        enough fruits and vegetables and many more need to become physically

    -   Screening programs have helped reduce deaths from breast and cervical
        cancer. While colorectal cancer screening rates remain very low, with
        just under 20% of people aged 50-74 receiving a regular fecal occult
        blood test (FOBT), Ontario's new Colorectal Cancer Screening Program
        has the potential to dramatically boost screening rates.

    -   Wait times for radiation therapy and cancer surgery are continually
        improving as a result of better planning, innovation and strategic
        investments in treatments, health professionals, and capital
        (buildings and equipment).

    -   The increased use of clinical guidelines and standards by health
        professionals and cancer organizations is raising the quality of
        cancer care across the province.

    -   The number of people diagnosed with cancer in Ontario is expected to
        grow by about 3% each year. However, survival is improving for
        patients with the three of the four most common cancers - prostate,
        breast and colorectal - as a result of better prevention, detection,
        and treatment. We are not seeing significant gains in lung cancer

    "The Cancer System Quality Index tells us we need to take more action on
cancer prevention, early detection and caring for patients after they complete
their treatment," said Terry Sullivan, PhD, President and CEO, Cancer Care
Ontario. "Ontario's Colorectal Cancer Screening Program will save lives. It's
crucial to ensure all our provincial screening programs reach vulnerable
populations including people living in poverty, new Canadians and

    The Index points to areas that need greater attention including:

    -   Incidence and death from cervical cancer in Ontario have decreased by
        more than 60% in the last 30 years largely as a result of screening
        with the Pap test. From 1989 to 2002, breast cancer mortality rates
        for women aged 50 to 69 decreased by 29% due to a combination of
        better treatments and increased participation in breast screening.
        However, cervical and breast screening rates have stalled in recent
        years at approximately 80% and 60% respectively, well below
        provincial targets. More effective approaches are needed to seek out
        and support vulnerable women with screening.

    -   Chemotherapy treatment wait times have remained largely unchanged
        over the last three years. At the same time, Ontario has insufficient
        resources and infrastructure to meet the needs of the growing number
        of patients who will require chemotherapy.

    "By using the same approach we're using to reduce cancer surgery and
radiation wait times, we will avoid a critical situation with chemotherapy,"
said Sullivan. "Cancer Care Ontario is developing a plan to improve the
coordination and distribution of high quality chemotherapy across communities
and LHINs. A critical part of this is resolving Ontario's shortage of medical
oncologists and other oncology professionals."

    -   Approximately 85% of palliative patients have cancer. In 2003, 53% of
        cancer patients died in hospitals, while most cancer patients prefer
        to die at home or in a community setting. The Ministry and Long-Term
        Care is leading a provincial End of Life strategy to build palliative
        care capacity in community settings including home care and hospices.
        Alongside this provincial strategy, Cancer Care Ontario launched the
        Provincial Palliative Care Integration Project to improve symptom
        management for palliative cancer patients and ensure more patients
        are able to die in the place of their choice.

    The Index is developed by the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario and
Cancer Care Ontario in collaboration with the Institute for Clinical
Evaluative Sciences and the University of Toronto, with input from more than
60 cancer experts.
    The Cancer Quality Council of Ontario monitors and reports to the public
on the quality and performance of the cancer system.

    Cancer Care Ontario is the provincial agency that steers and coordinates
Ontario's cancer services and prevention efforts so that fewer people get
cancer and patients receive the highest quality of care.
    Link to the Cancer System Quality Index via the Cancer Care Ontario

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Fiona Taylor, Public Affairs,
Cancer Care Ontario, Tel: (416) 971-9800 ext. 3336, or email:

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