5 key findings on the impact of cancer on Canada's population

At the Canadian Cancer Society our goal is to champion world leading outcomes in cancer prevention, treatment and support. An important part of reaching that goal is knowing how cancer impacts the population of Canada and how many Canadians are living with or beyond cancer.  This can be estimated using cancer prevalence, a measure of how many people have been diagnosed with cancer in the past and are still alive at a specific point in time. 

We have released the Canadian Cancer Statistics: A 2022 special report on cancer prevalence, a report recently developed by the Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, with data provided by the provincial and territorial cancer registries and Canadian Vital Statistics. 

We’ve summarized some of the key findings from the report for you below. 

Over 1.5 million people in Canada are living with or beyond cancer

The report highlights that over 1.5 million people were living with or beyond a cancer diagnosis and prevalence is rising. This might sound alarming but thanks to critical investments in cancer research, better methods of detection and more effective treatments more people are surviving cancer and living longer with and after the disease. 
An older woman smiling and sitting on the floor in her home.

Canadians are living longer after their cancer diagnosis

About 60% of people living with or beyond cancer in Canada were diagnosed in the previous five to 25 years meaning many are living longer after their diagnosis than ever before.

Because of this it’s important for our healthcare system to focus on prevention and supporting existing patients’ needs. With a focus on cancer prevention, we can ensure that there are fewer newly diagnosed Canadians in the future so that the healthcare system can focus on the care of Canadians already impacted by the disease.  

An older couple wearing pink ribbons embracing and smiling.

Cancer is more prevalent in Atlantic Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had higher proportions of their populations living with or beyond a cancer diagnosis than Central and Western Canada. This mirrors what we see with cancer incidence, where cancer diagnoses are more common in Atlantic Canada. 

Because of this it is critical for Atlantic Canada to receive support specific to their unique needs. We’re committed to supporting our neighbours across Atlantic Canada through the Atlantic Campaign, a fundraising initiative that invests specifically in programs that focus on the needs of Atlantic Canada but will also go on to create a better future for all Canadians.  

Halifax along the waterfront.

Rural Canadians were more likely to be recently diagnosed and living with cancer

Short-term prevalence was higher in rural areas, meaning Canadians living in rural areas were more likely to have been diagnosed and living with cancer in the previous two and five years. They face unique issues when experiencing a cancer diagnosis, such as a lack of available regional specialists, a long distance to their nearest clinic and limited access to support services. 

Inequalities like this in our healthcare system can become a much larger issue as our population ages, making the importance of cancer prevention and support programs in rural areas even more necessary.  

A farmer stands in a wheat field

Breast, prostate and colorectal cancers make up almost half of the prevalent cases in Canada

Breast, prostate and colorectal cancers are some of the most diagnosed cancers, and they account for almost half of prevalent cancers in Canada. 

Groundbreaking research has gone into diagnosing these cancers earlier and more effectively, meaning we’re seeing more Canadians being diagnosed. Because of this it’s important that we make sure that we’re able to meet the unique needs of Canadians who receive a breast, prostate or colorectal cancer diagnosis.  

A doctor in a white coat speaks to a patient

Canadians need our support now

With 1.5 million Canadians living with or beyond cancer, funding for future research is important but those Canadians need support now.

From diagnosis to treatment to life after cancer or end-of-life, people need to feel supported throughout their experience, however long that may be. Support and donations from people like you make it possible for the Canadian Cancer Society to offer compassionate support programs that are critical to many Canadians; they can help a diagnosis feel less scary, make treatment a little easier and help people facing cancer and survivors thrive.   

A pair of hands being held up to form the shape of a heart around the sun.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s goal is to improve the cancer experience by helping people live longer and enhancing their quality of life. The information we’ve learned from this new report shows us that with advances in research, compassionate support and strong advocacy, we can help those living with and beyond cancer thrive.