B.C. launches lung cancer screening program – the first in Canada

“More people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined”

BRITISH Columbians at high risk of lung cancer will soon be able to receive early detection screening, thanks to the provincial government’s investment in a new lung cancer screening program offered by BC Cancer – the first of its kind in Canada.

“At a time when we are dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that many families around the province are grappling with a cancer diagnosis. Cancer doesn’t wait for global pandemics, and we know that early detection can save lives,” said Premier John Horgan on Monday. “Our new lung cancer screening program will mean more treatment options, faster recovery and better outcomes for people around the province. It’s part of our work to keep people safe and healthy – no matter what they’re dealing with.”

The target population for this new cancer screening program will be adults aged 55 to 74 who smoke or have a heavy smoking history. It’s expected the first participants could be receiving scans by spring 2022.

“In 2020, an estimated 3,300 people in B.C. will be diagnosed with lung cancer,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Through early detection with this new lung cancer screening program, we will see survival rates dramatically improve. Similar to our other cancer screening programs, British Columbia is leading the way. We are proud to be the first province in Canada to establish a lung cancer screening program.”

It is anticipated approximately 300 people will be diagnosed each year through the program. They will be diagnosed earlier, giving them more treatment options.

“This is a truly important day for British Columbians,” said Dr. Kim Chi, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, BC Cancer. “Our clinicians and scientists have been working for years to get to this point, which is being made possible by the leadership and investment from the government of British Columbia and our valued funding partners, the BC Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.”

This lung cancer screening program supports other recent actions the government has taken to invest in early cancer diagnosis and treatment, including the addition of regional cancer centres at the second Surrey Hospital and Burnaby Hospital, and the expansion and investment in BC Cancer centres throughout the province with new state-of-the-art PET/CT scanners in Kelowna and Victoria.

British Columbia was also one of the first jurisdictions to create a cervical and breast cancer screening program.

Benoit Morin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), said: “More people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. With the new lung cancer screening program, we will have the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of British Columbians, thanks to early detection and intervention. This program is an excellent example of what’s possible through meaningful, focused partnership. To that end, PHSA and BC Cancer are grateful for the support of Premier Horgan and Minister Dix, the BC Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.”

Sarah Roth, President and Chief Executive Officer, BC Cancer Foundation, said: “We are here to change outcomes for people who face cancer. Donors have driven innovation and research into lung cancer screening at BC Cancer for the past decade. Today, thanks to generous individuals across B.C., we raised $1.75 million for vital equipment and startup costs. We are proud to be a part of Canadian history, as the Government of B.C. launches the first life-saving lung cancer screening program.”

Cynthia Morton, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, added: “I congratulate British Columbia’s Premier, Health Minister and the BC Cancer team for leading the way in committing to organized lung cancer screening. The partnership is proud to be part of this work, and we know that more provinces and territories will follow in the months ahead. This is groundbreaking news for all people living in Canada. Lung cancer kills more people than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined in Canada because it is often detected at a late stage. We can change this with organized screening programs for people at high risk of developing the disease. Implementing lung cancer screening programs is a priority in the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control. The partnership acts as the steward of the strategy and works with partners to embrace proven, life-saving new approaches to detecting and treating cancer at the earliest stage possible. We will continue to work with our partners in all provinces and territories to see lung cancer screening programs available for people at high risk of the disease.”

Quick Facts

* Six British Columbians die of lung cancer each day.

* Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in Canada and worldwide.

* Lung cancer is the third most-common cancer in males and the second most-common cancer in females.

* Lung cancer primarily affects people aged 50 years and older.

* 70% of all lung cancers are currently diagnosed at an advanced stage, and when symptoms are already present.