B.C. to launch first lung cancer screening program in Canada

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2015 file photo, a smoker holds his cigarette outside Oklahoma County Courthouse in Oklahoma City. A federal health panel wants to widen the number of Americans who get yearly scans for lung cancer, by opening the screening to less-heavy smokers. Lung cancer is the nation's top cancer killer, causing more than 135,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Smoking is the chief cause and quitting is the best protection. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File).

British Columbia will soon be home to the first lung cancer early detection screening program in the country.

British Columbians at high risk of lung cancer will be able to receive early detection screening by the spring of 2022.

“Cancer doesn’t wait for global pandemics, and we know that early detection can save lives,” Premier John Horgan said.

“Our new lung cancer screening program will mean more treatment options, faster recovery and better outcomes for people around the province.”

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The screening program will target adults aged 55 to 74 who smoke or have a history of heavy smoking.

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Around 300 people will be diagnosed each year through the program, the province says, and earlier diagnoses can allow for more treatment options.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in Canada and worldwide. Six British Columbians die of the disease each day.

“In 2020, an estimated 3,300 people in B.C. will be diagnosed with lung cancer,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

“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.”

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

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Lung cancer is the third-most common cancer in males and the second-most common cancer in females and primarily affects people aged 50 years and older. Seventy per cent of all lung cancers are currently diagnosed at an advanced stage, and when symptoms are already present.

The BC Cancer Foundation has raised $1.75 million for vital equipment and startup costs.