Nova Scotia to see 36% increase in cancer cases by 2030

WATCH: A report released Wednesday by the Canadian Cancer Society finds cancer cases will be going up in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by 2030 as the population ages. Julia Wong reports.

HALIFAX – Nova Scotia is expected to have a slightly lower rate of new cancer cases in 2030 than the national projection of 40 per cent, but health officials said that shouldn’t lull residents into complacency.

A report by the Canadian Cancer Society released Wednesday states Nova Scotia will see an approximately 36 per cent increase in new cases in the next 15 years.

An estimated 6,300 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the province this year. By 2030, that number will rise to 8,560.

Though the provincial increase is lower than the national rate, it is still a reality the province needs to deal with, said Kelly Cull, the manager of government and partner relations for the Nova Scotia chapter.

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“There’s little opportunity to stem the tide on what we’re going to see over the next 15 years because of our aging and growing population,” she said.

“If you were sitting around the table with four of your closest friends, chances are that at least one or two of you, according to this report, will be diagnosed with cancer,” said Erika Nicholson, the director of cancer prevention and early detection for Cancer Care Nova Scotia.

Cull said certain initiatives in Nova Scotia, such as the HPV vaccination program for young boys and the province’s upcoming ban on flavoured tobacco, will help future generations.

Nationally, the most common cancers now and in 2030 are prostate, colorectal, lung and breast cancer.

Nicholson said while screening rates for prostate and breast cancer in Nova Scotia are at acceptable levels, there needs to be a greater push for colorectal screening.

She said the screening rate is 30 per cent; ideally she would like to see it between 60 and 80 per cent.

Cull said the projection is important for planning purposes for government, not-for-profit organizations and other stakeholders.

“This will have a major impact on what our health care needs are going to be over the course of the next 15 years,” she said.

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“Certainly the infrastructure required on the part of government, not only from a human resource point of view, from an oncology point of view but also technology and diagnostic tools. We think about programs around cancer screening that are going to require increased capacity and then increased support for people who are living with cancer.”

Dr. Carman Giacomantonio, a surgical oncologist with the QE2 Health Sciences Centre, said age is a significant risk factor for cancer.

He said Nova Scotians need to keep healthy lifestyles top of mind.

“We’re overweight and we’re not as fit as we need to be. These two factors have a significant impact on cancer incidence. The other things are alcohol consumption and smoking,” he said.

When asked whether the province is prepared for the influx of cancer cases, Giacomantonio said it is a tricky question to answer.

“Probably not because again it’s not just cancer that’s challenging the province. We’re living longer. With increasing age becomes increasing burden on the healthcare system in general.”

“All small provinces are facing this challenge. To say you’re prepared is probably over-stating your case.”

Nicholson said the projection does not come as a surprise to the province.

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“It is not new news for us who are working in government or who are working in the cancer system. We’re actively working right now to improve care in areas that I think will stand us in good stead for the future.”

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