Ontarians receive their "marching" orders: Make colorectal cancer screening a priority this March

Almost half of Ontarians are unaware that they can screen for colorectal cancer at home

TORONTO, March 6, 2014 /CNW/ - March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Cancer Care Ontario and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care are urging Ontarians ages 50 to 74 to step up and get screened for the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario.

According to an Ipsos Reid survey, 85 per cent of Ontarians are aware that colonoscopy is a way to screen for colorectal cancer, yet a much less invasive option exists. For individuals aged 50 to 74 with no family history of colorectal cancer, screening can be as simple as completing a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) in the comfort of their own home.

In Ontario, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men and third most common cause of cancer deaths in women. Fortunately, screening plays an integral role in early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer. Screening can effectively reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer or dying from colorectal cancer by allowing the early detection of the disease. Someone with colorectal cancer has a 90 per cent chance of being cured if the cancer is caught early. When it comes to colorectal cancer, what you don't know can hurt you. The disease has a slow, silent progression, with many patients not exhibiting symptoms until later stages. Regular screening starting at age 50 plays an integral role in detecting cancers when they are small and less likely to have spread, improving overall chance of survival.

"Nearly a quarter of Ontarians believe that you should only screen for colorectal cancer if you are experiencing symptoms," said Dr. Linda Rabeneck, Vice President, Prevention and Cancer Control at Cancer Care Ontario. "But cancer screening is most beneficial for those without any signs or symptoms, which means the importance of regular screening can't be dismissed."

ColonCancerCheck, the province's organized colorectal screening program recommends that men and women between the ages of 50 to 74 with no family history be screened every two years using the FOBT kit. People with a family history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) are considered to be at increased risk for developing the disease. These people should get screened with colonoscopy beginning at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age at which their family member was diagnosed, whichever occurs first.

For more information on colorectal cancer screening in Ontario, visit http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/coloncancercheck/.

QUOTES
"Our government has armed physicians across Ontario with the tools men and women need to get screened for colorectal cancer with the FOBT. I urge Ontarians to stay a step ahead of colorectal cancer and talk with their primary healthcare providers about their screening options." - Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.

"Working together, we can stop cancer before it starts. Be aware of your personal risk factors and most importantly, if you are between the ages of 50 to 74 - get screened." - Rowena Pinto, Vice President, Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Cancer Society.

Colorectal cancer
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), which is the lower part of the digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last six inches of the colon. Together, they are referred to as colorectal cancer.  

The exact cause of this cancer is hard to pinpoint. However, we know that tiny growths, called polyps, sometimes form on the inner surface of the colon or rectum. Polyps are not cancerous but, over time, a slow-growing polyp may turn into colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer in Ontario
In Ontario, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men and third most common cause of cancer deaths in women.

In 2013, an estimated 8,700 Ontarians (about 4,800 men and 3,900 women) will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and approximately 3,350 Ontarians (1,850 men and 1,500 women) will die from it. 

Benefits of screening
When it comes to colorectal cancer, what you don't know can hurt you. The disease has a slow, silent progression with many patients not exhibiting symptoms until later stages. Screening can effectively reduce the risk of dying from colorectal cancer by allowing the early detection of the disease; someone with colorectal cancer has a 90 per cent chance of being cured if the cancer is caught early. 

Who should be screened?

  • It is recommended that men and women between the ages of 50 to 74 with no family history of colorectal cancer get screened every two years using the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit through ColonCancerCheck, Ontario's colorectal cancer screening program.
  • People with a family history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) are at increased risk for developing the disease. These individuals should get screened with colonoscopy beginning at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age at which their family member was diagnosed, whichever occurs first.
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The fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
The FOBT is a simple test done at home that detects invisible amounts of blood in the stool. People who complete an FOBT kit are asked to take samples of their stool on three different days, which are sent to a lab for testing. If blood is found, follow-up is needed. Although most people who have blood in their stool do not have colorectal cancer, colonoscopy is still recommended for them so the cause of their bleeding can be found.  

ColonCancerCheck FOBT kits are available from family physicians and nurse practitioners. Individuals without a family physician or nurse practitioner can get a kit by contacting Telehealth Ontario at 1.866.828.9213. For more information, visit www.ontario.ca/coloncancercheck

Colonoscopy
A colonoscopy is an examination of the lining of the rectum and colon using a flexible tube with a light and a camera on the end. The specialist who performs the colonoscopy can look at the entire colon to see if there are any polyps or cancer. Polyps are removed during the procedure.  

For more information about ColonCancerCheck, visit: www.cancercare.on.ca/screenforlife.  

Cancer Care Ontario - an Ontario government agency - drives quality and continuous improvement in disease prevention and screening, the delivery of care and the patient experience, for cancer, chronic kidney disease and access to care for key health services. Known for its innovation and results-driven approaches, Cancer Care Ontario leads multi-year system planning, contracts for services with hospitals and providers, develops and deploys information systems, establishes guidelines and standards and tracks performance targets to ensure system-wide improvements in cancer, chronic kidney disease and access to care.

SOURCE Cancer Care Ontario

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Media contact: 
Cancer Care Ontario
Phone: 1-855-460-2646
Email: media@cancercare.on.ca