National Staging Initiative to standardize cancer stage information across Canada

October 03, 2017

The National Staging Initiative leverages expertise and resources from across Canada and builds on existing provincial infrastructure, with provinces leading their own implementation and contributing financial and in-kind resources as required. In addition to its $20 million infrastructure and technology investment, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer is providing national leadership to the initiative by coordinating the efforts of all partners to support the overall implementation, and by supporting the development of standards that ensure comparable and consistent data collection. Other organizations involved are the provincial and territorial cancer registries, Statistics Canada, the Canadian Council of Cancer Registries, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Association of Pathologists. 

"As a Stage 3 colorectal cancer survivor, I can see how gathering consistent stage information across Canada will have an impact," said Archie McCulloch, a member of the Canadian Cancer Action Network, a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to ensuring patient interests remain a key priority on the national cancer agenda. "This type of information can be put to practical use for Canadians by driving changes that will result in more effective detection, diagnosis and treatment."

The approach to the National Staging Initiative varies by province, depending on the degree to which each jurisdiction is currently collecting stage data for its population. As an example, four provinces are planning and implementing electronic pathology reports that use a standardized checklist format. Pathology reports play a significant role in determining cancer stage. The standardized checklist for the reports was developed with the College of American Pathologists, which recently announced a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Association of Pathologists to collaborate on the development of cancer protocols and content standards to help improve pathology reporting standards internationally.

Through the National Staging Initiative, stage data is being collected for prostate, lung, breast and colorectal cancers diagnosed January 1, 2010 or later, with a goal of collecting national standardized stage data for 90 per cent of these cases. It is expected that this data will be available beginning in 2012.