5 facts about lung cancer
We break down some of the key takeaways on the impact of lung cancer from the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2023 report and why they matter to us all.
For years, more Canadians have faced a lung cancer diagnosis than any other cancer. In 2023, it’s expected to continue to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in males and females combined. This year alone, about 31,000 Canadians – or 85 people every day – will hear the words, “you have lung cancer.”
To better understand the impact of lung and other cancers in Canada, we released the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2023 in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. This report provides insights into incidence, mortality and survival for 20+ cancer types. According to this report, lung cancer death rates are declining faster than all other reported cancer types. Between 2015 and 2020, lung cancer death rates decreased by an average of 3.8% per year. However, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death with 20,600 people in Canada expected to die from the disease in 2023.
Find out more about lung cancer and why it matters to us all.
1. Lung cancer is expected to be the leading cause of cancer death – causing almost as many deaths as colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancers combined @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Not only is lung cancer expected to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada this year, it is also the leading cause of cancer death. Lung cancer is expected to cause almost as many deaths as the next 3 leading causes of cancer death (colorectal, pancreatic and breast) combined. Nearly 1 in 4 of the expected 86,700 cancer deaths in 2023 will be caused by lung cancer.
Although lung cancer survival in Canada is among the highest in the world, the 5-year-survival is still relatively low at only 22%.
2. About half of lung cancer cases are detected at stage 4 when it has already spread to other parts of the body @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Cancer stage helps describe how much cancer is in the body, where it is, whether it has spread (metastasized), and where it has spread using a number from 1 to 4. Stage 1 cancer is usually small and hasn’t spread outside of where it started. Stage 4 cancer is when cancer cells have spread to other distant parts of the body - often, making it more difficult to treat.
For people diagnosed with lung cancer, half of the cases are caught at a late stage when cancer has already spread beyond the lungs. A recent study released by Statistics Canada estimated that about 20% of lung cancer cases are detected at stage 1, 8% at stage 2, 19% at stage 3 and 51% at stage 4 (the stage was unknown for 2% of cases).
3. Lung cancer survival is about 62% when diagnosed early at stage 1 @(Model.HeadingTag)>
When lung cancer is found and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better. According to the recent study released by Statistics Canada, 5-year survival is about 62% when lung cancer is diagnosed at stage 1 but decreases to 3% when diagnosed at stage 4.
It’s important to get regular health checkups and see your doctor if you have any symptoms or are worried about your health. Knowing what is normal for you helps you notice changes. When you notice something different about your body, get it checked out sooner rather than later.
There are currently 2 lung cancer screening programs that have been implemented in Canada for high-risk populations in British Columbia and Ontario. There are also pilot programs underway in Alberta and Quebec. Other provinces such as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island are planning on implementing lung cancer screening programs in the future.
4. About 86% of lung cancer cases are due to modifiable risk factors - making it one of the most preventable cancers @(Model.HeadingTag)>
There are things we eat, drink, breathe and do that affect our cancer risk. By making healthy choices and protecting ourselves where we live, work and play, we can reduce our risk for certain cancers - including lung cancer.
About 86% of lung cancer cases are caused by risk factors that we can change, making it one of the most preventable cancers in Canada.
While tobacco smoking has decreased dramatically over the last 50 years, tobacco is still the leading risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for about 72% of all cases. Other risk factors like physical inactivity, exposure to radon gas, asbestos and air pollution put Canadians at increased risk for lung cancer too.
5. People with lower incomes have poorer survival outcomes for lung cancer @(Model.HeadingTag)>
The more we understand about inequity and its impact on people affected by cancer, the better positioned we are to address it.
People with lower incomes are more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer at a late stage than people with higher incomes. Additionally, people with lower incomes often have poorer survival outcomes, even when they are diagnosed at the same stage as people with higher incomes.
The underlying issues for these inequities are explored in the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s report, Lung cancer and equity: A focus on income and geography.
With lung cancer continuing to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer among people in Canada and the leading cause of cancer death in 2023, we all have a reason to care about the impact of this disease.
These key facts and notable findings from Canadian Cancer Statistics 2023 provide important information that highlights the critical need for change. Working together, we can enhance lung cancer prevention efforts, implement organized lung cancer screening, improve treatment, increase access to support and treatment for all people in Canada no matter their income or location, and reduce lung cancer stigma.