What is Epidemiology?

Epidemiology involves studying the occurrence of diseases in human populations. More precisely, people working in this field investigate the causes, distribution, and outcomes of diseases in a given population.

Epidemiology contributes to the whole spectrum of cancer control (prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliation). Cancer epidemiologists within CancerCare Manitoba's Epidemiology Unit primarily study patterns of cancer in the population, trying to determine what factors distinguish people who develop or die from cancer and those who don't. To achieve these investigations, they use basic and advanced statistical methods.

The Epidemiology Unit has become a leader in the area of risk factor surveillance in Manitoba.

Current projects span the cancer spectrum and include:

  • youth health initiatives (youth smoking and tobacco use, Manitoba's physical education policy)
  • with our partners, developing a Chronic Disease Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • studies on wait times (head and neck, breast cancer surgery, colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment)
  • colorectal cancer and screening research
  • epidemiology and surveillance of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and the HPV vaccine in Manitoba
  • risk of cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer among women with IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease)
  • association between cyanobacterial toxins and liver cancer
  • establishment of a prostate tumour bank
  • patterns of care for treatment of cervical cancer in Manitoba and construction of a detailed model of invasive cervical cancer
  • patient needs studies and validating measure of patient empowerment
  • Manitoba First Nations and Metis health research

Cancer Survival and Prevalence Analytic Network

Manitoba continues to break new ground in the field of cancer surveillance and is home to the Cancer Survival and Prevalence Analytic Network or C-SPAN - one network in a group of Cancer Surveillance and Epidemiology Networks funded the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC). Its goal is to provide in-depth cancer surveillance information, with an eye to building analytic capacity and integrating knowledge translation strategies.

For years cancer surveillance analysts have been providing a wide range of statistics to the health community. The assumption was these carefully researched reports would be used to develop programs to control cancer. But are these reports hitting the mark? Is the population benefiting from what the data are showing? Are comparable analytic tools being used? And do we explain well enough why sometimes the statistics can justifiably vary?

Reaching out to the end users to design reports to fit with what they need marks the beginning of a new era in cancer surveillance and the Cancer Survival and Prevalence Analytic Network (C-SPAN) is proud to be one of the leaders of leading this initiative.

Survivorship statistics including relative survival and prevalence are important to cancer control. To use the information as effectively as possible, both the analysts and the end users need to be consulted in the development phase. Based at CancerCare Manitoba, C-SPAN has been connecting with both analytic and user audiences in Manitoba and across the country to determine the best presentation of cancer survival and prevalence information.

C-SPAN is also working closely with analysts across the country in order to address one of the most significant barriers in cancer control today - the lack of analytic capacity within the provinces and territories to allow the appropriate calculation and production of cancer surveillance statistics for their own jurisdictions.

To read the C-SPAN newsletters, please click here.

To learn more about the Cancer Surveillance and Epidemiology Networks, please visit the CPAC website.