Hamilton `warrior’ finds colon cancer thanks to early detection

It’s no wonder Karen Grover’s favourite yoga move is the warrior pose. The Hamilton fitness enthusiast – whose weekly routine includes yoga classes, gym workouts and 5 km runs — has won significant health battles over the years, including defeating colon cancer. Karen, 58, was diagnosed in 2012, after a take-home screening test that looks for signs of colorectal cancer came back positive. The colonoscopy that followed discovered cancer. “I was lucky because the cancer was caught early,” said Karen, who didn’t require chemotherapy or radiation.

Men and women ages 50 to 74 with no close family history of colon cancer are encouraged to take ColonCancerCheck’s free, take-home screening test every two years as part of their routine medical care. ColonCancerCheck is a 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. It’s available through healthcare providers such as family doctors and nurse practitioners. Anyone who doesn’t have a family physician can call Telehealth Ontario’s colon cancer screening line at 1-866-828-9213 for information on how to obtain a test kit. People without a healthcare provider can also visit the Mobile Cancer Screening Coach.

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.

Karen’s other major health battle was a lifelong struggle with weight. Five years before her cancer diagnosis, she underwent gastric bypass surgery and subsequently lost 150 pounds. She has been able to keep the weight off through lifestyle changes that included healthy food choices and regular exercise. Ironically, Karen felt healthier that she had in years at the time of her cancer diagnosis.

“It’s very likely that I’m alive today because of that screening test,” said Karen. “I recommend it to all Ontario residents, even if they feel 100 per cent healthy.”