Provincial Cancer Diagnosis Pathways

Cancer Strategic Clinical NetworkTM

patient and caregiver

Provincial pathways help ensure patients receive consistent, high quality care across the province.

AHS has implemented cancer diagnosis pathways for many cancer types, including breast, lung and prostate cancer.

These pathways have been shown to expedite cancer diagnosis and improve supports and care coordination for patients.

Cancer Diagnosis Pathways Initiation Roadmap

Colorectal  | Lymphoma | Breast | Head & Neck | Bladder | Metastatic & Unknown Primary

Colorectal Cancer & Lymphoma Pathways

The Cancer SCN is currently co-designing and implementing provincial cancer diagnosis pathways to expedite and support symptomatic patients suspected of having colorectal cancer or lymphoma.

For 30% of patients, these cancers go undiagnosed until hospital admission, which is associated with higher mortality and higher system costs.

These pathways aim to identify patients with cancer earlier, and facilitate next steps in care, such as diagnostic investigations, patient referrals, education and supports with the goal of improving patient outcomes and experience.

Breast Cancer Diagnostic Assessment Pathway

Breast cancer is the 2nd most common type of cancer in Canada, and the #1 cancer for women. Alberta’s Provincial Breast Health Initiative involves several components, including pathway development, that aim to improve breast cancer care, screening and health outcomes, reduce wait times, better coordinate care, and enhance the patient experience.

Head & Neck Cancer Diagnostic Pathway

Head and Neck Cancer (HNC) is the 6th most common type of cancer in Canada. However, there exists some discrepancy in diagnosing HNC in Alberta due to variation in practice and referral patterns.

A provincial oversight committee with leaders from medicine, dentistry, research, and quality improvement have collaborated to streamline and align current processes, improve the appropriateness of diagnostic testing, and improve the timing of referrals to specialty care as it relates to head and neck cancer diagnosis. This work is supported by the Alberta Cancer Diagnosis program.

Bladder Cancer Diagnostic Pathway

Bladder Cancer is the 5th most common type of cancer in Canada. In 2018, 970 Albertans received a bladder cancer diagnosis with a mortality rate of 14.6%. As with other types of cancer, early detection and treatment are key factors influencing patient outcomes.

To that end, the Cancer SCN has undertaken work to design and implement a provincial Bladder Cancer Diagnosis Pathway, which will assist primary care and other providers in identifying, assessing and investigating risk factors for bladder cancer, most notably gross hematuria. The process brings together stakeholders from the medical community as well as patient representatives with the goal of co-designing an easily accessible pathway that will contribute to better management and outcomes for this patient population. Work on the pathway is ongoing through 2023-2024.

Metastatic Cancer Diagnosis Program & Cancer of Unknown Primary Pathway

The Cancer SCN has partnered with Cancer Care Alberta to develop a Metastatic Cancer Diagnosis Program (MET Program) that aims to simplify and expedite referrals from primary care to improve the timeliness and appropriateness of the diagnostic trajectory for patients with advanced cancer. Metastatic cancer (defined as cancers detected at metastatic sites rather than primary sites) is difficult to manage in the community and patients often end up in hospital for diagnosis due to delays and the late stage of disease.

The MET Program stems from work in developing a Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP) Diagnosis Pathway by a multidisciplinary team composed of patient and family advisors, medical oncologists, surgeons, gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists, palliative and supportive care specialists, operational leaders and triage nurses. As the CUP work evolved, it became clear that this work would benefit all metastatic cancer patients by providing a complete diagnostic workup and referral to the most appropriate tumour team (including CUP) and enhance our ability to assess and support patients and families throughout their cancer journey.