Cancer in the NWT

Cancer is the leading cause of death in the NWT and in the rest of Canada. Between 2001 and 2010, an average of 111 new cancer cases were diagnosed every year in the NWT and cancer accounted for approximately 25% of all deaths. Understandably, this creates concern in our communities.  

As NWT residents get older and live longer, we can expect to see more cancer. Also, the more people participate in cancer screening, the more cancer we will find. Detecting cancer early is a good thing because it means there is greater likelihood of cure with simpler treatments.  

Cancer incidence refers to the number of people who are diagnosed with cancer every year. When all cancer types are considered together, cancer incidence in the NWT is the same as in the rest of Canada. However, colorectal cancer rates are higher among men and women in the NWT than in the rest of the country. On the other hand, prostate cancer is not as common in the NWT as in the rest of Canada, but it is one of the more common cancers among NWT men along with colorectal and lung cancers. Breast, colorectal, and lung cancers are the most commonly diagnosed cancers among NWT women. 

Lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer are the most frequent causes of death from cancer among NWT residents. Cancer mortality refers to the number of deaths caused by cancer every year. Compared to other Canadian men, NWT men have significantly lower mortality from all cancers combined. Compared to other Canadian women, NWT women have similar cancer mortality. However, compared to other Canadian women, more NWT women die from colorectal and lung cancer.  

As well, a greater number of men die from colorectal cancer in the NWT than in the rest of Canada. On average, 45 people died from cancer every year between 2001 and 2010.  

In general, we are seeing fewer NWT residents die from cancer every year. For all cancer types combined, there are no significant differences in cancer incidence among Dene, Métis, Inuit, and non-Indigenous people of the NWT.