Colorectal cancer screening saves lives but many don't take steps to get tested: Canadian Cancer Society survey

    March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

    TORONTO, March 13 /CNW/ - A Canadian Cancer Society survey has found that
many people believe they are at risk for colorectal cancer but few actually
speak to their doctor about getting tested for the disease.
    "This shows the need to raise awareness of screening for this disease
that is 90% treatable if detected early," says Sylvia Leonard, Vice President,
Cancer Control Policy and Programs, Ontario Division, Canadian Cancer Society.
    People aged 50 and over are at higher risk than younger people. Those
50-plus individuals who have no family history or other risk factors are
considered to be of average risk.
    In a survey of 600 Ontario residents 50 years and older, 76% were aware
that they are of average risk for colorectal cancer. However, the survey also
found that 52% of respondents have not talked to their doctor about getting a
screening test.
    In January, the Ontario government announced the funding and
implementation of a province-wide colorectal screening program, the first in
North America. The program will screen average-risk individuals 50 and older
who show no symptoms, using an at-home screening kit called the fecal occult
blood test (FOBT).
    "We are pleased with the Ontario government's decision to implement a
colorectal cancer screening program," says Leonard. "This screening program is
something we advocated for and it will save lives."
    The new screening program includes a comprehensive five-year public
education campaign to educate the public and health care providers on the
benefits of colorectal screening and early detection.
    "The results of the Society's survey clearly show how important public
education is," says Leonard.
    The good news is that 74% of survey participants knew that a screening
tool exists and 23% of those were able to name the screening tool as the FOBT.
    "Many people know that screening exists but are not asking for it,
possibly because of fear of the unknown," says Leonard. "It's important that
people over 50 know that the FOBT is an easy-to-use, non-invasive test they
can undertake in the privacy of their own home."
    About a third (34%) of respondents said they had been screened for
colorectal cancer. However, current data shows that only about 10% of
Ontarians over age 50 have had a FOBT.
    "This is a surprising result and leads one to believe that the public may
not understand what screening is. Some survey respondents may have had a test
of some kind possibly for diagnostic purposes but not necessarily a screening
test," says Leonard.
    Screening programs are designed to detect disease before symptoms are
noticeable. A cancer screening test will be made available to an entire
population when it will help to detect cancer before it would have been
detected as a result of symptoms, and when research indicates that early
treatment will reduce death rates. This is referred to as population-based
cancer screening.

    In Ontario, an estimated 1,650 men and 1,450 women died of colorectal
cancer in 2006. An estimated 4,000 men and 3,500 women were diagnosed. After
lung cancer, it is the second-leading cause of cancer death for men and women
combined, and yet the disease is 90% treatable if detected early.

    The poll was conducted by Oraclepoll Research, and surveyed 600 Ontario
residents aged 50 and older. The margin of error is 4%, 19 times out of 20.

    The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of
volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and to enhance the quality of
life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer,
visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer
Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For further information:

For further information: Christine Koserski, Media Relations, Ontario
Division, Canadian Cancer Society, (416) 488-5402 ext. 2305,

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Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division)

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