Health Fact Sheets
Cancer Screening, 2017

Release date: June 26, 2018

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, affecting females and males of all ages.Note 1 As of 2017, it is estimated that almost 1 in 2 Canadians will develop a form of cancer in their lifetime, and 1 in 4 will die of Cancer.Note 2 Early detection through cancer screening and the treatment of precancerous conditions is an important part of reducing the number of people who are diagnosed with cancer.

Meeting the Guidelines

The Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care (CTFPHC) has recommended guidelines for when and how often a person should receive cancer screening. In 2017, Canadians were more likely to meet the guidelines for mammogram screening, and less likely to meet the guidelines for colorectal cancer testing (Chart 1).

Chart 1 Meeting " The Canadian Task force on Preventative Health Care (CTFPHC)" cancer screening guidelines, Canada, 2017

Data table for Chart 1
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Percent, Lower 95% confidence interval and Upper 95% confidence interval, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Percent Lower 95% confidence interval Upper 95% confidence interval
percent
Mammography Screening 78.5 77.2 79.7
Pap smear test 74.0 73.1 75.0
Colorectal Cancer testing 43.4 42.4 44.4

Colorectal Cancer Testing

Colorectal Cancer is among the five most common types of cancer in Canada.Note 2 Since 2000 there has been a decrease in incidence rates of colorectal cancer for women, and a similar trend has been seen for men since 2008. These trends can likely be attributed to greater rates of cancer screening across Canada.Note 2

In 2017, 60.9% of Canadians aged 50 to 74 (roughly 6.5 million people) reported that they have had a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) in their lifetime.Note 3 Among the sexes, the proportion was higher for females (62.3%) than males (59.4%).Note 4

The CTFPHC recommends colorectal screening for adults aged 50 to 74 with an FOBT every two years or a sigmoidoscopy every 10 years unless they are at high risk.Note 2 Among Canadians 50 to 74, 40.6% have had a fecal test in the past 2 years. The most common reason among Canadians aged 50 to 74 for not getting a fecal test in the past two years was that the doctor felt it was not necessary (Chart 2).

Chart 2 Reasons for not having a fecal test in the previous two years, by sex,  population aged 50 to 74, Canada, 2017

Data table for Chart 2
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2 Males, Females, Lower 95% confidence interval and Upper 95% confidence interval, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Males Males Females Females
Lower 95% confidence interval Upper 95% confidence interval Lower 95% confidence interval Upper 95% confidence interval
percent
Feelings of fear or discomfort 1.7Note E: Use with caution 1.2 2.2 1.4 1.1 1.8
Didn't know it existed 2.9 2.2 3.6 1.7Note E: Use with caution 1.2 2.2
Don’t have a doctor 3.2 2.6 3.8 2.9 2.2 3.7
Lack of time 5.1 4.1 6.0 3.8 3.2 4.5
Other 9.8 8.7 11.0 8.8 7.9 9.7
Had a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy instead 11.6 10.2 13.0 17.0 15.5 18.5
Respondent felt it was not necessary 30.3 28.4 32.3 28.2 26.5 29.9
Doctor felt it was not necessary 43.5 41.4 45.6 43.5 41.5 45.5

In 2017, 47.9% of Canadians aged 50 to 74 reported that they have had a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy in their lifetime. Among Canadians 50 to 74 who have received one of these tests, it was more common to have had a colonoscopy (87.3%), rather than a sigmoidoscopy (3.4%) or both (9.3%).

Mammography

Mammography is an x-ray of the breast used to help detect both cancerous and non-cancerous tumours. By 1998 organized breast screening programs were established in Canada across all 10 provinces.Note 5

In 2017, 91.4% of women aged 50 to 74 (roughly 5 million people) reported having a mammogram in their lifetime.

Among the 5 million women who have received a mammogram, the most common reason was because it was part of a routine follow up (69.8%). Women also reported they had a mammogram due to their age (16.5%), or a family history of breast cancer (12.6%).

In 2017, 78.5% of women aged 50 to 74 have had a mammogram in the past three years. The CTFPHC guideline recommends a mammogram every two to three years for women in this age group. For women who did not meet this guideline, the most common reason reported was that they felt it was not necessary.

Pap smear test

In 2017, 90.6% of women aged 25 to 69 reported that they had a Pap smear test in their lifetime.

The CTFPHC recommends that women aged 25 to 69 years old receive Pap tests every three years, as a method for early detection of abnormal cells in the cervix. Note 2 In 2017, 74.0% of women aged 25 to 69 had a Pap test in the past three years. Women aged 25 to 34 (79.2%) and 35 to 49 (79.4%) were more likely to have received a Pap test in the past three years compared with women aged 50 to 69 (67.3%).

Socio-Economics and meeting the cancer screening guidelines

The proportion of Canadians who followed the CTFPHC guidelines for mammograms and Pap tests were lower among those who had a secondary school graduation or less compared to women with a post-secondary graduation. Females in the lowest income households were also less likely to meet the recommended guidelines, compared to women in higher income households. The proportion of people meeting the guidelines for colorectal cancer screening did not differ by education or income.Note 6

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