This Web page has been archived on the Web.

2002 September Status Report of the Auditor General of Canada

September 2002 Status Report—Chapter 2

Exhibit 2.9—Surveillance system for breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Canada. It is diagnosed in more than 19,000 Canadians every year. A study by the National Cancer Institute of Canada suggested that the direct costs of breast cancer totalled $7 billion in 1990. That is just one third of the estimated indirect costs.

In 1993 the Canadian Breast Cancer Initiative was launched, with a financial commitment of $25 million for five years. In 1998 the program was renewed to 2003, with total funding of $35 million or $7 million annually. The goal of the initiative is to encourage and support research related to the prevention, treatment, and control of breast cancer. The initiative has five components, one of which is surveillance and monitoring of breast cancer. This component is divided into three sub-components: screening surveillance; risk factor surveillance; and treatment and palliative care surveillance.

It appears that most effort has been directed at surveillance of breast cancer screening. A system for collecting data from organized screening programs already exists and is soon to be extended to include non-organized screening programs. Health Canada has undertaken only limited activities to develop a breast cancer treatment surveillance system; at present there is no such system.

Surveillance information on breast cancer treatment would be of great value to physicians and breast cancer patients. For example, long-term effects of treatment could be monitored and used to assist physicians and patients in decision making. This represents a missed opportunity.