Critical Canadian projections for Lung Cancer Awareness Month

24 November 2020

Lung Cancer Awareness MonthA new report from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, has found that the chances of successful treatment and survival for lung cancer are dramatically increased when it is found and detected early.

Earlier detection of lung cancer is key to improving survival and mortality. Half of all lung cancer cases are diagnosed at stage 4, at which the 3-year survival rate is only 5%. In contrast, 3-year survival rises to 71% when lung cancers are diagnosed at stage 1. Lung cancer is projected to continue being the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death in Canada in 2020, accounting for 1 in 4 of all cancer deaths. In 2020 alone, it is estimated that about 30,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer and about 21,000 will die from the disease.

About 86% of lung cancer cases are attributable to modifiable risk factors, making it one of the most preventable cancers in Canada. As such, enhanced lung cancer prevention efforts are an important part of reducing the incidence of lung cancer in Canada.


Tobacco awareness and tobacco control polices have had a dramatic effect on lung cancer in Canada. If Canada reaches its target of decreasing smoking prevalence to less than 5% by 2035, an estimated 50,225 lung cancer cases will be prevented by 2042. CCS will continue to advocate for tobacco control measures that will help to reduce the incidence of lung cancer in Canada and offer smoking cessation support to help individuals quit.

Organized screening programs are key to early detection for lung cancer and can lead to fewer deaths and late stage diagnoses. Organized lung cancer screening in Canada over 20 years could lead to 7,000 to 17,000 fewer stage 4 diagnoses and 5,000 to 11,100 fewer deaths. That’s why CCS supports government action to implement organized lung cancer screening programs for high-risk populations across the country, like British Columbia’s newly launched lung cancer screening program.

Lung cancer stigma, whether real or perceived, can also be a barrier to high-quality care and support. CCS is working to address lung cancer stigma, which could be fundamental in improving clinical care and quality of life for people diagnosed with the disease.

For statistics on lung cancer incidence, mortality, survival and prevalence, you can read the full report here. To learn more about lung cancer, visit cancer.ca/lung.