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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Colon cancer is the second most common cancer in Ontario
March 10, 2020 (Kitchener, ON) – A new colorectal screening test is helping care providers catch cancer sooner and more accurately, for better patient outcomes.
“Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ontario for men and third for women, which means any opportunity to detect cancer sooner is crucial for patients and their physicians,” says Dr. Rachael Halligan, Regional Primary Care Lead with the Waterloo Wellington Regional Cancer Program.
It is estimated that in 2019, approximately 9,100 people in Ontario (about 4,900 men and 4,200 women) were found to have colon cancer and about 3,150 people (1,650 men and 1,500 women) died of the disease. Research shows that almost 70 percent of people who get colon cancer do not have a family history of the disease.
“If caught early, 90% of people with colorectal cancer can be cured. The new screening test is simple and can be done at home. It is designed to accurately detect pre cancer polyps and colorectal cancer for early treatment and better outcomes”, says Dr. Jonathan Love, Regional Colorectal Screening Lead with the Waterloo Wellington Regional Cancer Program. “Not only is the test easy to use, because there is only one sample needed and there are no dietary restriction but data shows that this test is more effective and accurate than the previous test.”
In 2019, the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) was introduced and is available to adults 50-75 who are at average risk for developing a colorectal cancer. It is a safe and painless test that checks stool for microscopic amounts of blood. This small amount of blood can show polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer over time) or cancer. If this test is positive and shows traces of blood a colonoscopy is required.
A new centralized referral program is available in Waterloo Wellington to shorten the wait time for patients needing a colonoscopy after an abnormal FIT result. “The Waterloo Wellington Coordinated Colonoscopy Access Program is the only central triage program in the province,” says Dr. Love. “The program’s goal is to provide a colonoscopy within the target of eight weeks. So far, over 1,000 referrals have been received and scheduled by the program. Of those referrals, approximately five percent had a cancer found.”
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. People who are at average risk (age 50-74 with no first degree relatives who have had colon cancer) who have no symptoms should complete screening for colon cancer using the FIT test every two years. Anyone without a family doctor or nurse practitioner can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213.
Just over 39% of people ages 50-74 who are eligible for colorectal screening in Waterloo Wellington are overdue,” says Dr. Halligan. “Talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about getting screened. It can save your life.”
For more information about screening for those at average or increased risks of colon cancer, please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/colon-cancer-testing-and-prevention.
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