March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Regional Cancer Program encourages men and women to get checked regularly for colon cancer.

 MARCH 1, 2017 – March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the Regional Cancer Program, with Cancer Care Ontario, is encouraging eligible men and women to get screened for signs of this disease with a  simple take-home test called the Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT).

This test is offered through ColonCancerCheck, a province-wide screening program for men and women ages 50 to 74 with no family history of colon cancer. Screening is important because when caught early, nine out of every 10 people with this disease can be cured.

Colon cancer (commonly called colorectal cancer or bowel cancer) is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. It is estimated that in 2016, approximately 9,900 Ontarians were diagnosed with colon cancer and approximately 3,200 Ontarians died from the disease. Despite this fact, many people are not getting checked with this simple take-home test as part of their routine medical care. Provincially and regionally, about 40 percent of eligible men and women are overdue for screening.

“This makes it more important than ever for people to get checked for this disease beginning in their early 50s – even if they have no family history of the disease or if they don’t have uncomfortable symptoms such as change in bowel habit, rectal bleeding or abdominal pain,” said Dr. Barry Lumb, Regional Endoscopy Lead for ColonCancerCheck, Physician in Chief at Hamilton Health Sciences and Professor with McMaster University’s Department of Medicine.

Colon cancer can develop when growths on the lining of the colon, called polyps, turn into cancer over time. People between 50 and 74 years of age with no first-degree family history (parent, sibling or child diagnosed with colon cancer) are considered to be at average risk for the disease and should get checked every two years with the FOBT.

The FOBT checks a person’s stool (poop) for tiny drops of blood, which could be caused by colon cancer. An abnormal FOBT result does not necessarily mean that a person has colon cancer, as more testing with a colonoscopy is needed to find out why there is blood in their stool.

Research shows that regular screening using an FOBT, for people who are 50 years of age and older, can reduce deaths from colon cancer. If colon cancer is caught after it has spread to other parts of the body, treating it is more difficult and it’s less likely to be cured . For people whose colon cancer has spread, as few as one out of eight will be cured.

“Many people don’t realize that colon cancer may be present in the body for a long time before it causes physical symptoms,” says Dr. Catherine Dubé, Clinical Lead, ColonCancerCheck, Cancer Care Ontario.

“The role of screening is to catch the cancer early because it is highly treatable at that stage. For people over 50, getting checked regularly can improve their chances of beating colon cancer.”

Some people who have had polyps removed from their colon, as well as people with inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), may be at increased risk for developing colon cancer and may need to be checked regularly with colonoscopy instead of an FOBT.

Talk to your healthcare provider today about getting checked for colon cancer with a take-home FOBT kit.  Anyone who doesn’t have a healthcare provider can call Telehealth Ontario’s colon cancer screening line at 1-866-828-9213 for information on how to obtain at kit.

Media inquiries, please contact:

Lise Diebel
Promotion/Communications Coordinator
Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Regional Cancer Program
Office: 905-521-2100, ext. 79280
Cell: 905-741-6317

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