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Chief Medical Officer shares updated Fort Chipewyan report with community

Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, provided an updated Alberta Health Services’ cancer report  to the Nunee Health Authority Board in Fort Chipewyan on March 21. 

"The health of Albertans is our top priority. That’s why we have been working closely with this community to address concerns that have been raised about cancer incidence.  While this report shows slightly higher rates of three specific types of cancer, the overall cancer rate in the community is not significantly higher than expected. Our goal is to work with the community to improve the health of the people living in Fort Chipewyan, based on these results."

Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health

Cancer report findings

(period between 1992 and 2011)

  • Overall cancer rate – there were 81 cases of cancer reported. The expected number would be 79 cases. This means the overall number of cancers is not significantly higher than expected.
  • Cervical cancer rate – four cases of cervical cancer were reported. One case would be expected.
  • Biliary tract cancer rate – three cases were reported; none would be expected. Another case of biliary tract cancer has been confirmed in the region, but is not included in the period examined in this report. This case is being reviewed and will be included in future updates on cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan.
  • Elevated cancer rates were not detected in children.
  • Lung cancer rate – there were eight cases of lung cancer among women. Four cases would be expected.
  • The number of cases of cervical cancer and biliary tract cancer are statistically higher than expected, while the number of female lung cancer cases is close to being statistically higher than expected. The numbers for all three cancers, however, are low.

Dr. Talbot has recommended a number of potential next steps which he will be discussing with the Nunee Health Authority, the community, Alberta Health Services, and First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. These include:

  • increasing the number of human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccinations;
  • enhancing smoking prevention and cessation efforts;
  • increasing pap smear screening and cervical cancer treatment programs; and
  • conducting a community health assessment focused on chronic disease prevention that is acceptable to the community.

The report compared observed cancers in Fort Chipewyan to the number that would be expected based on age-adjusted Alberta averages. Data from the Alberta Cancer Registry, which contains information about anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer or who has died from cancer in Alberta, was used.

The Alberta Cancer Registry is a member of the North American Association of Central Cancer registries and has met the standards for Gold Certification, the association’s highest standard for complete, accurate and timely data to calculate standard cancer incidence statistics. Cancer reporting is mandatory in Alberta.


Prevention and risk factors of certain types of cancer

Cervical cancer

  • The majority of cervical cancers are related to human papilloma virus exposure.
  • The human papilloma virus vaccine can prevent this kind of cancer.
  • Routine pap smears for early detection and treatment can also prevent it.

Biliary tract cancer

  • The known risk factors for bile duct cancer are complicated, including family history, bile duct stones, cysts and abnormalities, liver cirrhosis, inflammatory bowel disease, aging, obesity, alcohol, diabetes and viral hepatitis.
  • Possible risk factors that might increase the risk include smoking, pancreatitis, infection with HIV, and exposure to asbestos, radon, dioxin, nitrosamines or some polychlorinated biphenyls.

Lung cancer

  • The majority of lung cancers are related to smoking.
  • Preventing teens and young adults from beginning to smoke and programs to aid smokers in quitting can help prevent lung cancer and a host of other diseases.

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