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Cancer survival rates improve for patients between 60 and 79

When the subject is cancer, the news is seldom good. But one key positive fact that can be drawn from a new report by Cancer Care Ontario is that cancer survival has improved for people diagnosed between ages 60 and 79.

The five-year relative survival rate — the likelihood of surviving at least five years after receiving a cancer diagnosis, in comparison to the general population — for those aged 60–79 increased by 16.4 percentage points between 1984 and 2013. Five-year survival rates also increased for those aged 40 to 59.

The inevitable countering bad news is that those between ages 60 and 79 also account for more than half of all new cancers diagnosed. Half of all cancer-related deaths occur in this group, as well. A further third of cancer-related deaths affect those aged 80 and up.

The Ontario Cancer Statistics 2018 report estimates that in 2018, 90,483 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Ontario, with 30,574 people dying from the disease. One in two Ontarians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and the disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the province, as nearly one in four Ontarians will die from it.

Key facts affecting Canadian seniors include the following:

  • In 2018, it is expected that 48,038 new cancer cases and 15,394 cancer deaths will occur in people ages 60 to 79.
  • In 2018, 69.7% of prostate cancer cases (8,828 cases), 61.6% of lung cancer cases (11,396 cases), 53.5% of colorectal cancer cases (11,595 cases) and 47.3% of female breast cancer cases (11,762 cases) are expected to be diagnosed in people ages 60–79. 
  • Lung cancer will continue to be the leading cause of cancer death, followed by colorectal, breast and pancreatic cancers. Lung cancer is expected to be responsible for almost one-quarter of all cancer deaths and more than half of these deaths will occur in people ages 60–79.

“For the first time, there are more Ontarians over the age of 65 than under 15,” said Dr. Michael Sherar, president and CEO of Cancer Care Ontario. “The needs of our aging population will be a tremendous challenge for our health care system. Together with our partners, it is important that we use the information presented in Ontario Cancer Statistics 2018 to inform our future prevention and cancer control strategies to ensure our cancer system continues to meet the needs of all Ontarians.”

Dr. Sherar’s comments echo the recommendations of the Canadian Medical Association, which supports targeted funding to support a pan-Canadian seniors strategy to address the needs of our country’s aging population.

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