The human body is comprised of millions of cells. These cells form our tissue, organs, muscles and bones. Our genes provide the roadmap for how all of the parts of our body grow and function. Cancer is a disease that starts in our cells and interrupts the normal instructions provided to our cells, forming lumps and tumours, or causing them to spread to the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
Some tumours are benign (non-cancerous). These often stay static in one place and are often not life threatening. Others are malignant (cancerous) and can invade tissue and spread to other parts of the body or metastasize.
Cancer statistics at a glance
It was estimated that 196,900 Canadians would be diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and 78,000 Canadians would lose their battle with cancer.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.
Note: The total of all deaths in 2011 in Canada was 242,074. Adapted from: Statistics Canada. Leading causes of deaths in Canada, 2011, CANSIM Table 102-0522
It is estimated that in 2015:
- 100,500 Canadian men will be diagnosed with cancer and 41,000 men will die from cancer.
- 96,400 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cancer and 37,000 women will die from cancer.
- On average, 539 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every day.
- On average, 214 Canadians will die from cancer every day.
- Lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the most common types of cancer in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). Based on 2015 estimates:
- These cancers account for over half (51%) of all new cancer cases.
- Prostate cancer accounts for about one-quarter (24%) of all new cancer cases in men.
- Lung cancer accounts for 14% of all new cases of cancer.
- Breast cancer accounts for about one-quarter (26%) of all new cancer cases in women.
- Colorectal cancer accounts for 13% of all new cancer cases.
Based on 2006–2008 estimates, 63% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer are expected to survive for 5 years or more after a cancer diagnosis
Survival rates vary from low to high depending on the type of cancer. For example, based on 2006–2008 estimates:
- The 5-year relative survival rate for lung cancer is low (17%).
- The 5-year relative survival rate for colorectal cancer is average (64%).
- The 5-year relative survival rate is high for prostate cancer (96%) and breast cancer (88%).
- Between 1992–1994 and 2006–2008, survival rates increased from 56% to 63% for all cancers combined.