Cancer agency offers tools to boost screening

dr-linda-rabeneckAccording to a new report released by Cancer Care Ontario, many eligible Ontarians aren’t up to date with their cancer screening tests. The Ontario Cancer Screening Performance Report 2016 evaluates the performance of the province’s three organized cancer screening programs: the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), the Ontario Cervical Screening Program (OCSP) and ColonCancerCheck (CCC). It highlights cancer screening participation and retention, future program directions and also includes a feature on Ontarians who are overdue for screening.

“Effective cancer screening programs are crucial to reducing the impact of cancer,” says Dr. Linda Rabeneck (pictured), vice-president, prevention and cancer control, Cancer Care Ontario. “Research has shown that family doctors can influence their patients’ participation in cancer screening, which is why we encourage all healthcare providers to speak to their patients about getting screened.”

There are a number of geographic and socio-demographic characteristics associated with being overdue for cancer screening, including age, male sex, low neighbourhood income and not being registered with a family doctor. The findings in this report will be used to inform evidence-based and locally relevant strategies to strengthen cancer screening in Ontario.

To support primary care providers, Cancer Care Ontario has developed several innovative tools to assist them with cancer screening in their practices, including the Primary Care Screening Activity Report and the Electronic Medical Record tool. Cancer Care Ontario also sends cancer screening invitation and reminder letters to eligible Ontarians, and as of 2015, physicians can opt in to physician-linked correspondence for the ColonCancerCheck program.

Key report findings are:
Participation in breast cancer screening has remained stable at 65 percent of eligible women since 2011-2012. The proportion of women screened within the Ontario Breast Screening Program has continued to increase, up to 78 percent in 2013-2014.

Participation in cervical cancer screening has declined from 2009-2011 (68 percent) to 2012-2014 (63 percent).

Retention in the OCSP has also declined, from 81 percent among women screened in 2010 to 72 percent among women screened in 2011. These decreases may be related to changes in screening guidelines which extended the recommended screening interval from annually to once every three years.

Older women were less likely than younger women to return for a subsequent Pap test. Retention was lowest in the oldest age group (women ages 60 to 66) at 68 percent.

The proportion of eligible Ontarians who are overdue for colorectal cancer screening has continued to improve (decline) from 50 percent in 2008 to 40 percent in 2014. We are transitioning to a new screening test for colorectal cancer for average risk individuals (the fecal immunochemical test), which we anticipate will improve screening participation.

A copy of the Ontario Cancer Screening Performance Report 2016 is available at