Gina Allan believes in helping others. That’s why the Niagara woman chose policing as a profession. It’s also the reason she’s encouraging fellow Niagara residents to stay up-to-date with colon cancer screening by taking a free test that screens for early signs of the disease.
Men and women ages 50 to 74 with no family history of colon cancer are encouraged to take the Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) through ColonCancerCheck every two years as part of their routine medical care. ColonCancerCheck is a free, province-wide screening program created by the Government of Ontario with Cancer Care Ontario.The easy-to-use FOBT can be done at home and mailed to the lab for testing.
Individuals like Gina with a family history may need to start screening sooner, and should talk to their family doctor about a colonoscopy referral. But for everyone else ages 50 plus, the FOBT is a potentially lifesaving screening tool.
While colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women in Ontario, it’s highly treatable when caught early. In fact, when caught early, nine out of every 10 people can be cured while in its later stages the outcomes are much worse.
Gina’s mother Dita had reached the advanced stages of colon cancer by the time it was diagnosed in the spring of 1996. She passed away one year later.
People may assume that they don’t need to get screened if they’re symptom-free but that’s not true, says Cancer Care Ontario. When a person reaches 50 years of age, the risk of colon cancer rises.
“The FOBT wasn’t available when my mother died of colon cancer 19 years ago,” said Gina. “If it had been, she may be alive today. Regardless of how healthy people 50 plus feel, I would encourage every eligible Niagara resident to make the FOBT part of their routine medical care.”
If you’re due or overdue for screening, ask your healthcare provider for an FOBT kit. People without a healthcare provider can get an FOBT kit by contacting Telehealth Ontario at 1.866.828.9213. Niagara residents without a healthcare provider can also visit the Mobile Cancer Screening Coach.