Birthday greetings include an invitation to start colon cancer screening

St. Catharines, ON — For many of us, birthdays mean scrumptious cake, glowing candles, gifts and greeting cards. If you’ve just turned 50, those birthday greeting will also include a letter in the mail from the province’s ColonCancerCheck program inviting you to start colon cancer screening as part of your routine medical care.

“I started screening when I turned 50, after getting my letter in the mail,” said Chris Lowes, owner of the Mahtay Cafe and Lounge in downtown St. Catharines.

Ontario men and women ages 50 to 74 with no symptoms of colon cancer or first-degree family history (parent, sibling or child diagnosed with the disease) are encouraged to take a simple take-home test called the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years as part of their routine medical care. This easy-to-use test can be done in the privacy of your own home. 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.

Chris’ FOBT came back negative, meaning it showed no signs of colon cancer. He’ll continue taking the take-home test every two years for cancer prevention/early detection.

“The older I get, the more aware I’ve become about cancer and its devastating effects,” said Chris, who does not have a family history of colon cancer but has lost loved ones to other types of cancer. “Since colon cancer can almost always be cured when caught early, it makes sense to do the screening.”

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. In its later stages, the outcomes are much worse.

Regular screening also means that you can find colon cancer before you get 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 healthcare provider? Information on how to obtain this screening test is also available through Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213.