Motorcycle enthusiasts promote cancer screening in memory of their loved one

Photo courtesy of Peter Foulds

Bikers visiting Port Dover on Friday the 13th encouraged to stop by the Regional Cancer Program booth for cancer screening info and giveaways.

Hagersville resident Jackie McGowan married Dave Ruttan just 10 days before he died of colon cancer. “We knew Dave was dying and wanted to say our vows as a final, everlasting expression of our love,” said Jackie, whose husband passed away four years ago.

Dave was at high risk of developing colon cancer because he had Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition that can be passed down from parent to child.  A person with Lynch syndrome is at increased risk for colon and stomach cancer.  For women, there’s also an increased risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.

Cancer risks for people with Lynch syndrome start to increase when they’re in their late 20s. Dave was first diagnosed at age 28 and developed colon cancer again in his late 40s.  His history of developing colon cancer in his 20s and multiple diagnoses are typical of Lynch syndrome.

Dave’s birth mother developed colon cancer and possibly had Lynch syndrome though she was never tested. Dave had no idea of her medical history because he was adopted.  It wasn’t until he connected with other birth family members as an adult that he learned of his family history.  By that time he had already been diagnosed with colon cancer.

Approximately five to 10 percent of colon cancer can be related to a hereditary cancer syndrome.  However, 90 to 95 percent is not, which means anyone can develop this disease. In the general population, colon cancer is more common in older adults.

Jackie and her stepson Dave Jr., together with the Regional Cancer Program, encourage anyone with a significant family history of colon cancer (particularly in a parent, sibling or child diagnosed with colon cancer) to talk to their healthcare provider about a colonoscopy to screen for signs.

For people with no symptoms or no significant family history, a free, easy-to-use take-home screening test offered through the province’s ColonCancerCheck program is recommended. Ontario men and women ages 50 to 74 with no symptoms of colon cancer or significant family history are encouraged to take this test every two years as part of their routine medical care. Called the Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), it involves collecting tiny samples of your fecal matter and mailing those samples to a lab for testing. If the test comes back positive the next step is a colonoscopy for a closer look.

Research shows that regular screening using a FOBT, for people who are 50 years of age and older, can reduce deaths from colon cancer. While colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Ontario, it’s highly treatable when caught early. In fact, when caught early, nine out of every 10 people with colon cancer can be cured.

Regular screening also means finding colon cancer before getting symptoms such as change in bowel habit, rectal bleeding or abdominal pain.

If you’re 50 or older, talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about the FOBT. No health care provider? Information on how to obtain this screening test is also available through Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213.

Jackie and her stepson are also encouraging fellow motorcycle enthusiasts to visit the Regional Cancer Program’s booth at October’s Friday the 13th festivities in Port Dover for cancer screening information and giveaways. Information on screening can also be found at hnhbscreenforlife.ca