BC Cancer has launched a provincewide lung cancer screening program, providing access to eligible high-risk people at 36 sites throughout the province.
“BC Cancer’s clinicians and researchers are leading Canada with the launch of this innovative program that will save and improve the quality of people’s lives,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Almost everyone across the province has been touched by cancer in some way. By screening eligible people for lung cancer, it can be detected earlier so people can get treatment earlier.”
The Province, through BC Cancer, is providing approximately $2.75 million annually toward the operating costs of the program. The BC Cancer Foundation contributed approximately $1.93 million to support specialized software needed to interpret the required scans. The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer provided nearly $800,000 in project funding to start the program.
The Lung Screening Program expects to start screening close to 10,000 patients in the first year of the program, with this number expected to increase by approximately 15% per year. It is estimated the program will diagnose approximately 150 lung cancer cases annually, with more than 75% of these diagnosed at an earlier stage than without screening.
"The launch of Canada’s first provincewide Lung Screening Program is a credit to the team at BC Cancer, who are dedicated to quality patient care and passionate about reducing the burden of cancer in British Columbia, including for Indigenous people who are disproportionately impacted by lung cancer,” said David Byres, president and CEO, Provincial Health Services Authority. “I’d like to thank our government and community partners as well as our health-care workers and researchers who made this program a reality.”
Lung screening is available provincewide through 36 sites across all health authorities using the existing computed tomography (CT) scanning capacity.
Lung screening is best suited for those who are at high risk for lung cancer and who are not experiencing symptoms. Eligible participants may include those who are:
- between 55 and 74;
- currently smoking or have previously smoked; and
- have a smoking history of 20 years or more.
Patients who meet the above criteria are encouraged to call the Lung Screening Program at 1 877-717-5864 to complete a consultation and risk assessment to determine eligibility.
Key benefits of a provincewide screening program:
- equitable access for eligible British Columbians;
- early detection resulting in improved survival rates; and
- consistent, high-level screening and prevention delivered via a centralized program.
BC Cancer clinicians and researchers led by Dr. Stephen Lam, medical director of the BC Cancer Lung Screening Program, are leading the program's implementation.
“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and worldwide,” Dr. Lam said. “In B.C., seven people die of lung cancer every day. With 70% of all cases diagnosed at an advanced stage, the Lung Screening Program aims to change this trend by detecting the majority of lung cancers at an early stage when treatment is more effective.”
The centralized program will determine who is eligible, communicate results to patients, provide a pathway to cancer care if required and provide information on smoking-cessation programs.
Warren Clarmont, provincial director, Indigenous Cancer Control, BC Cancer
"Indigenous people are experiencing higher incidences of lung cancer when compared to other B.C. residents. The introduction of a provincewide lung-screening program will help reduce barriers to access for Indigenous people across B.C. We hope that with this new program, more lives will be saved through culturally safe and accessible screening for eligible First Nations, Métis and Inuit people."
Sarah Roth, president and CEO, BC Cancer Foundation
“This first-in-Canada provincewide lung cancer screening program would not be possible without our incredible community of donors. We are so proud to funnel their support, in partnership with the Province and BC Cancer, to help bring this life-saving prevention and early-detection tool to high-risk people across B.C., regardless of where they live. It is our deepest hope that it will change the game for the deadliest cancer in the province.”
Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi, chief medical officer, BC Cancer
“BC Cancer’s new Lung Screening Program will help diagnose lung cancer at an early stage before people develop symptoms. Cancer screening for early detection is a key tool in the fight against cancer. Earlier detection of cancer means treatment that can be less invasive and have faster recovery and higher rates of cure.”
Dr. Craig Earle, CEO, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC)
“CPAC congratulates British Columbia and the BC Cancer team for acting quickly to implement a provincewide lung cancer screening program and supporting early diagnosis for people at high risk for this disease. Because of the solid evidence showing that lung cancer screening saves lives, implementing screening programs is a priority initiative in the Canadian strategy for cancer control. Co-creating these programs across the country with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and equity-deserving communities will help achieve the strategy’s vision of equitable access to high-quality, culturally safe cancer prevention and care for all people in Canada.”
Shannon McCrae, B.C. lung-screening trial participant and lung cancer survivor
“My best friend passed away from lung cancer, so I knew first-hand that lung cancer can be a silent killer. I was a smoker for over 20 years, so when I saw an ad about the BC Cancer lung-screening trial, I registered on the spot. I was shocked when the screening results came back positive even though I displayed no symptoms. The cancer was removed immediately after I was notified about my results. I can say with confidence and gratitude that early detection and the B.C. Lung Screening Program saved my life. I’d like to encourage all who qualify for the screening to enrol.”
- B.C. is a pioneer in developing population-based cancer screening.
- It was the first cancer program in the world to introduce cervix screening in 1955.
- It was the first cancer program in Canada to implement breast screening in 1988.
- Both programs have improved survival rates for cervical and breast cancer.
- B.C. is now the first province in Canada to introduce a provincewide lung-screening program.
- Lung screening will involve a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan of the lungs.
- During the scan, the patient lies on a table and a CT scanner takes detailed images of the lungs in less than 15 seconds.
- It is anticipated that by year eight the program will diagnose approximately 300 people per year.
- People will be diagnosed earlier through the new screening program, giving them more treatment options.