Epidemiology & Cancer Registry

Epidemiology is the study of diseases in human populations. Cancer epidemiology contributes to the whole spectrum of cancer control (prevention, screening, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliation).

The mission of the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Registry at CancerCare Manitoba is to collect, organize, and analyze population-based cancer data in Manitoba.

Our goals include the following:

  • Maintain and constantly improve the Manitoba Cancer Registry's database with current up-to-date standards and coding classification systems
  • Provide cancer data, methodological, and cancer epidemiological expertise to CancerCare Manitoba, Manitoba Health, the University of Manitoba, provincial, national and international agencies
  • Provide on-going cancer surveillance for the province of Manitoba
  • Lead and collaborate with other researchers and health care providers to conduct cancer epidemiological research
  • Educate and train medical students, graduate students, and residents

Contact Us

Epidemiology & Cancer Registry
Room ON-2114
675 McDermot Ave
Winnipeg, MB R3E 0V9
Phone: 204-787-2174
Fax: 204-786-0628

Room CC-18
825 Sherbrook St.
Fax 204-784-2879

Email: CCMBepireg@cancercare.mb.ca


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
  • the patient needs studies and validating a 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 by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC). Its goal is to provide in-depth cancer surveillance information, intending to build analytic capacity and integrate 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 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 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.

What is the Manitoba Cancer Registry?

The Manitoba Cancer Registry is a data system designed for the collection, management and analysis of data on all persons in Manitoba with the diagnosis of a malignant neoplasm (cancer). 

CancerCare Manitoba is legally mandated under the Public Health Act to collect, classify and maintain accurate comprehensive information on all cancer cases for the province of Manitoba.

The registry started in 1937 as a basic record of patients who were seen at the province’s first cancer clinic.  At first, the Registry did not record a full snapshot of cancer in the province, only those who were seen at the cancer clinic. That changed in the 1950s when the Registry began documenting cancer cases in the entire Manitoba population, whether they received treatment at CancerCare Manitoba or local hospitals. Since 1956, the Registry has been considered population-based, including demographic information, tumour-specific descriptions, basic treatment information and outcome (survival/death).

The data is collected by Cancer Registrars who are trained and certified health information professionals who collect, classify and maintain this important information.  Cancer Registrars abstract cancer-related data from various sources and encode relevant details utilizing the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the International Classification of Diseases for Oncology(ICDO). 

Registrars record details on the type of cancer, place, date, method and stage at diagnosis and other details, including treatment information such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

The Information collected is used for:

  • Epidemiological research- identifying patterns and determinants of cancer
  • Patient care
  • Health Care planning and delivery
  • Education, studies and research projects
  • Planning and evaluating cancer screening programs
  • Annual statistics of cancer incidence, mortality and prevalence in Manitoba
  • Reports to the Canadian Cancer Registry at Statistics Canada
  • Reports to the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries
  • Reports to the International Association of Cancer Registries and the International Agency on Cancer Research – World Health Organization
  • Reports on System Performance Indicators to the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

The registry also provides cancer data and consultation on statistical analysis and cancer epidemiology to Manitoba Health, the University of Manitoba, provincial, national and international agencies and the private sector.

While these details interest health care researchers, the Registry is much more than a repository for research. It plays an important role in surveillance for use in the management and delivery of cancer services. Indeed, the Registry helps CancerCare Manitoba to answer questions arising from various aspects of cancer control, including how to better prevent cancer, detect it earlier, treat it better and assist those with incurable cancers to live longer and more fully.

How is personal information protected?

The Registry respects and protects a patient's right to privacy. Confidential health information is handled under the guidelines of the Personal Health Information Act of Manitoba.

The Registry's records are directly augmented by treatment data from Manitoba Health and pathology reports received from the pathology labs throughout Manitoba. Information is also provided by clinics and hospitals.


The Manitoba Cancer Registry is one of the best and oldest cancer registries in North America. It currently holds the Gold Standard for Registry Certification from the North America Association for Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) for achieving the highest standard for complete, accurate, and timely data.

NAACCR is a professional organization that develops and promotes uniform data standards for cancer registration; provides education and training; certifies population-based registries; aggregates and publishes data from central cancer registries; and promotes the use of cancer surveillance data and systems for cancer control and epidemiologic research, public health programs, and patient care to reduce the burden of cancer in North America.



A listing of articles and reports published between 2000 and 2016 that have used the Manitoba Cancer Registry database and/or were authored or co-authored by department staff can be viewed by clicking here.

To view the most current and past Cancer in Manitoba Annual Statistical Reports for cancer incidence and mortality rates please click here. Limited copies of the most current Annual Statistical Report are available.

For questions about the contents of the reports or to request a copy,
please email CCMBepireg@cancercare.mb.ca

Staff Bios

Donna Turner

Donna Turner is an Epidemiologist and Provincial Director of the Population Oncology portfolio at CancerCare Manitoba. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. She began her training at the University of Victoria in Health Information Science, followed by graduate work in epidemiology and oncology at the Universities of Calgary and Alberta and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. She further developed her interest in cancer epidemiology by working at two Canadian cancer agencies (the Alberta Cancer Board and CancerCare Manitoba).

As a result of these experiences, her research interests revolve around the use of population-based cancer registry data, particularly record linkage using cancer registries and administrative data (information collected as part of the management of health care insurance plans or employment) as a means of informing cancer control activities. Her current position allows her to work in various aspects of cancer control research - from prevention/etiology to early detection to diagnosis/treatment to outcomes - using the population-based data resources of the provincial health department and the cancer agency in Manitoba.

Kathleen Decker

Dr. Kathleen Decker is a Scientist in the Research Institute of Oncology and Hematology and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. She leads the Health Services Research Group in the Research Institute and works closely with the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Registry at CancerCare Manitoba. Her research examines how and when Manitobans use health care across the cancer control continuum from screening to survivorship. The goal of her research and that of the Health Services Research Group is to investigate the reasons that contribute to the challenges that face cancer control (e.g. inequities in access, increasing costs, rising incidence), and generate new knowledge and evidence-based solutions to achieve better health outcomes, improve the health and quality of life of Manitobans diagnosed with cancer, and optimize health system performance and sustainability. She currently holds research grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba, an MHA from Dalhousie University, and an Honours B.Sc. from the University of Waterloo.

Gail Noonan

Gail Noonan is the Manager of the Cancer Registry and a certified tumour registrar. She has spent her career at CancerCare Manitoba worked at CCMB for 30 years now with most of those years in the Cancer Registry as a cancer registrar.

Her research interests revolve around the collection and quality of the data in the Manitoba Cancer Registry and staying up-to-date with all the current coding and staging classifications to assist researchers, analysts and/or physicians looking to the Registry for information. She chairs the Committee on Data and Quality Management which provides recommendations and advice to the Canadian Council of Cancer Registries on matters relating to the quality and the standardization of the Canadian Cancer Registry data collection, storage, analysis and reporting. The membership includes representatives from across Canada and allows her to network, leverage knowledge and keep current with all aspects of cancer data collection in the Registry.