Start the conversation about colon cancer screening with family and friends. That’s the advice of Dr. Nicole Zavagnin, as Colon Cancer Awareness Month kicks off today. Dr. Zavagnin is the Regional Primary Care Lead for Cancer Care Ontario at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
Health is a common topic at the dinner table, and Dr. Zavagnin suggests you take the opportunity to make the conversation count. “If your family is anything like mine, then often enough dinner conversations shift to everyone’s latest ailment or trip to their doctor,” she says. “What your family might not know is that Ontario has some of the highest rates of colon cancer in the world. Isn’t it time we started talking about cancer prevention and screening so we can help to avoid this potentially fatal condition?”
When caught early, 9 out of 10 people with colon cancer can be cured. However, in Northwestern Ontario 44 percent of eligible adults are overdue for their colorectal screening. This statistic is especially concerning knowing that there are simple screening tests available for all Ontarians.
“Regular, age-appropriate cancer screening can help us to identify certain cancers when they are smaller and more easily treated,” explains Zavagnin. “For the average person who is 50 to 74 years of age with no family history of colon cancer, a screening test called a fecal occult blood kit, or ‘poop test’ as it is commonly called, finds blood in your stool that you can’t see with the naked eye. If this test finds blood, then a colonoscopy, or scope, will be ordered to find the source of the blood. During the colonoscopy, if cancer or a precancerous growth, called a polyp, is found then treatment can begin before any symptoms have developed. This increases your chances of being cured.”
If you have a family history of colon cancer, then your screening path will include a colonoscopy. “If you have a family history of colon cancer, it’s important to talk to your doctor so you can begin screening with a colonoscopy at age 50 or 10 years earlier than the age your family member was when they developed colon cancer, whichever comes first,” advises Zavagnin.
A common myth that prevents people from getting screened is that they feel healthy, so they don’t need to get tested. But, the truth is that screening is for healthy people, before they have symptoms or feel sick.
“So the next time your father starts making bad jokes at the table, or Uncle Bob starts telling everyone about his knee surgery, take the opportunity to discuss colon cancer screening with your loved ones. You might just save their life.”
Talk to your health care provider today about getting checked for colon cancer with a take-home fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit. People without a health care provider can get a kit from Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213 or book an appointment on the Screen for Life Coach by calling 1-800-461-7031.
For more information on colon cancer screening in Ontario, visit cancercare.on.ca/colon.
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