Get your Butt over here!

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

MONTREAL, Feb. 25 /CNW/ - Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in Canada. Although it is Preventable, Treatable and Beatable, too few Canadians are getting screened for the disease and worse yet, many do not have access to all the therapies required to fight the disease.

Last year, an estimated 22,000 Canadians were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and sadly approximately 9,100 people died from it. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and it is time we get over the embarrassment and do everything we can to encourage all Canadians between the ages of 50 and 74 to get screened.

"Get your Butt over here" takes on a whole new meaning

To launch Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada (CCAC) has expanded its Giant Colon Tour across the country. This March, the CCAC will be expanding its collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to promote Ontario's successful Coloncancercheck screening program. The CCAC will also be touring Quebec with its Giant Colon in conjunction with the Salon Des Generations.

During the tour, visitors are invited to participate in this multimedia presentation as they journey through a 40-foot long giant representation of the human colon. Visitors to The Giant Colon are educated about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer and other diseases of the colon and learn how easy it is to be screened for the disease. Information about colorectal cancer and the Coloncancercheck screening program are available free of charge to all visitors.

To help promote national awareness of the disease, the CCAC has also launched an International Public Service Announcement contest. Individuals can win $2,500 for submitting the best video on colorectal cancer awareness and $1,000 for the best print advertisement. The purpose of the contest is to promote public awareness of the disease, encourage interest and create a conversation about colorectal cancer screening.

Over the past few years, there have been some exciting changes to the state of colorectal cancer prevention and treatment in Canada. Although screening has not as yet been implemented on a national scale many provinces have made significant progress and have launched pilot screening projects in anticipation of launching screening programs. Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta have launched programs and Nova Scotia, PEI, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the North West Territories have all launched pilot programs. New Brunswick has recently announced their decision to bring in a screening program and Quebec is studying how to commence a pilot program and improve colonoscopy capacity. Newfoundland is the only province yet to announce a decision surrounding the creation of a pilot program.

"While progress has been made, the pace at which these programs are introduced and expanded must be increased. Province-wide population based screening programs are critical to reducing the number of fatalities from the disease," said Barry D. Stein, President of CCAC. "Primary prevention and screening coupled with timely access to effective treatments are the hallmarks of what will ultimately bring about a reduction in the fatalities from this disease."

"Access to effective medications has seen progress in Canada, but there is so much inter provincial inequality in the access to treatments across the country that Canadians who firmly believe in our universal and national health care system are confused when learning that in their home province they may not be able to access the same medications or treatments as in other provinces," says Stein. "We believe that all Canadians who have cancer should have equal and timely access to the most effective medications designed to fight their disease, regardless of which province they live," said Stein.

"One example of such inequity is the fact that Ontario patients can be reimbursed for third line treatment with either Vectibix(TM) (panitumumab) or Erbitux(TM) (cetuximab) while patients in Quebec and Manitoba have no access to these medications. Certainly patients with advanced disease have as much right to prolong their lives in Quebec as they do in Ontario. This is simply not acceptable," Stein added.

Last year, the CCAC launched a major campaign to improve access to colorectal cancer treatment urging provincial governments to cover new and effective medicines approved by Health Canada. As a result of this campaign and in collaboration with individual patient advocates, Alberta approved Avastin(TM) (bevacizumab) and subsequently, with the intervention of the Ontario Ombudsman, Ontario announced an increase in the funding for Avastin, a life-extending medication in the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer. During the CCAC legislative breakfast in New Brunswick, the government announced it would fund Avastin and launch a new colorectal cancer screening program in that province. However, patients in PEI still do not have access to this drug and patients must either pay for it or forgo treatment.

"The CCAC is pleased with these advances, however, we are now looking to the future of colorectal cancer care," said Stein. "Personalized medicine is at our door-step and we must ensure that all provinces not only provide access to these new medications, but provide the necessary biomarker tests for them as well. For certain classes of medications such as Vectibix(TM) and Erbitux(TM), we can now test to determine which patients would benefit from these drugs. Consequently, according to Stein, it is critical that testing for KRAS and BRAF mutations be administered to ensure that the right people end up accessing the appropriate medications. If we are to cure cancer we must encourage innovation and ensure that all Canadians have access to these new advances", said Stein.

About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is the second-leading cause of cancer death in Canada. Though highly preventable and curable when detected early, an estimated 22,000 Canadians were diagnosed with colorectal cancer last year, and approximately 9,100 died from it.

An almost equal number of men and women are affected by colorectal cancer. One in 14 men and one in 16 women are expected to develop the disease during their lifetime. One in 28 men and one in 31 women will die from it.

About the CCAC

The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada is the country's leading non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of colorectal cancer, supporting patients and advocating for national screening and timely and equal access to effective treatment options to improve patient outcomes.

Visit the CCAC website, www.colorectal-cancer.ca, for up-to-date information on colorectal cancer or call the toll-free number, 1.877.50.COLON (26566) to order free copies of helpful educational materials. The Public Service Announcement contest may be viewed at www.colorectal-cancer.ca/psa.

SOURCE Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

For further information: For further information: about colorectal cancer or The Giant Colon Tour, or to schedule an interview please contact: Lydia Moreyne, Communications, CCAC, lydiam@colorectal-cancer.ca, (514) 875-7745 ext 223, 1 877 5 0COLON (26566); Naz Araghian, GCI GROUP, naz.araghian@gcicanada.com, (416) 486-7225

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Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

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