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Colorectal Cancer Screening Isn’t Something to Be Feared

Friday May 2, 2014

Throughout the month of March I helped to promote colorectal cancer screening as March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Most of the messaging we healthcare providers like to promote emphasizes that ‘screening saves lives’, and ‘cancer screening sees what you can’t’. But, after working on a cancer screening education video with Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, another message that I’d like to promote is that ‘cancer screening is not something to be feared.’

I think that there is a lot of fear around cancer screening because people fear what screening may find – cancer. However, it is important for everyone to know that routine cancer screening aims to find cancer early, when it is easier to treat. In fact, if colorectal cancer is found early through cancer screening, there is a 90 per cent chance of curing it.

What is routine colorectal cancer screening?

There are two different routine cancer screening scenarios that depend on your family history (parent, brother, sister, or child) of colorectal cancer:

1. If you don’t have a family history of colorectal cancer, then you should screen for colorectal cancer every two years, starting at age 50, using a stool test [like a ColonCancerCheck Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)] that you can get from your community health nurse or doctor. Ask your doctor or nurse for a ColonCancerCheck kit.

2. If you do have a family history of colorectal cancer then you should screen for colorectal cancer by a colonoscopy every five years starting at age 50 or 10 years prior to the age of your family member’s diagnosis. For example, if your parent had colorectal cancer and was diagnosed at age 55, then you would go for your first colonoscopy at age 45. A colonoscopy requires a doctor’s referral, so make sure you speak with your healthcare provider.

A stool test is done in the comfort of your own home and tests for the tiniest amount of blood in your stool which could indicate a health issue. If you have a positive stool test, then you would be referred for a colonoscopy which allows a doctor to look for signs of cancer inside of the colon with a camera. This test may require you to travel to a hospital, like Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, where they have the equipment to do the test.

What’s most important for you to know is that these tests are for healthy people, before you have symptoms of colorectal cancer. Don’t wait to do the tests if you are eligible now. They aren’t something to be feared.

A resource that I recommend you that you watch is the video that features Chief Stan Beardy’s personal cancer journey with colorectal cancer. You can watch this video by going to this link: www.tbrhsc.net/GoodLife. Not only will you hear how cancer screening saved Chief Beardy’s life but you can also learn more about cancer screening tests, including the stool test and colonoscopy.

For more information on colorectal cancer screening, visit www.coloncancercheck.ca.


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