Study says nearly 1 in 2 Canadians to develop cancer in their lifetime

Some alarming statistics today from the Canadian Cancer Society.  Nearly one in two Canadians is expected to be diagnosed with cancer sometime in their lifetime and one in four will die from the disease.

Despite that, there is good news in all this. We know people are living longer and people are living longer with cancer. Great progress is being made in both prevention and treatment so your chances of surviving now compared to a few decades ago is dramatic.

Sarah Metcalfe is a survivor.  Six years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she is here, at the Cancer Survivors’ Park in Ottawa’s east end to share her journey and that of her family.

“I’ve lost 3 uncles to lung cancer, my dad to colon cancer and more recently my mom to soft tissue sarcoma,” she says.

In fact 8 people in her immediate family have had cancer, including her husband.  News today from the Canadian Cancer Society that 1 in 2 of us will develop cancer is alarming.

“It makes you wonder what's going on in world that cancer is becoming so prevalent.”

The report from the Canadian Cancer Society estimates that the risk for men of developing cancer in their lifetime at 49%.  For women, it is 45%. The most common malignancies are prostate, breast, lung and colorectal.

Those numbers are sobering.  The Canadian Cancer Society says 200,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer this year; nearly 81,000 will die of cancer.  Bear in mind that our country's population is both aging and increasing, contributing to those sobering statistics.

Dr. Leah Smith is an epidemiologist with the Canadian Cancer Society, “This, of course, causes a major impact on health care resources, on physician time, on wait times and there is a major impact on Canadians and their families, as well.”

Progress is being made in fighting cancer.  At the Ottawa Hospital, researchers with the Cancer Therapeutics program are finding ways to get a patient's own immune system to help cure their cancer.  The results are exciting.

“What we know is that the viruses work,” says Dr. Michael McBurney, the scientific director of the Cancer Therapeutics Program, “primarily by infecting cancer cells and provoking the immune system to eradicate the rest of the tumor.”

For Sarah Metcalfe, it is encouraging research that will help her and God forbid, her son, should he ever develop cancer.

“If he does develop cancer, that it will be the most trivial of experiences,” she says, “Let's hope in any case.”

With that research comes better survival rates.  According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 60% of Canadians are expected to survive five or more years after being diagnosed with cancer.