Finding Colorectal Cancer Early

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January 2009 - Finding Colorectal Cancer EarlyColorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or bowel cancer, is a leading cause of cancer death in Nova Scotia. In fact, almost 1000 Nova Scotians will be diagnosed with the disease this year and about 350 will die from it. Most of those diagnosed will have no family history of colorectal cancer and often will only have symptoms when the chance of cure is not good. Research has shown that when colorectal cancer is found early, it is 90 per cent curable.

This is the reason Cancer Care Nova Scotia has been working with the Department of Health and district health authorities to build a Colon Cancer Prevention Program. The program will roll out in two phases, beginning March 2009.

In March, screening kits and educational information will be mailed to men and women, aged 50-74 years, in three district health authorities: South Health, Cape Breton District Health Authority and Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority. Plans are to have it available in all other health districts within a year.

The screening program is intended for individuals, aged 50-74 years, who have no symptoms, no family history of the disease, and no hereditary or inflammatory bowel condition known to increase risk. They will be invited to participate in the program every two years.

Taking part in colorectal cancer screening reduces the chances of dying from the disease. The screening process can also detect polyps that may develop into cancer over time. These can be removed during a colonoscopy, preventing the cancer from ever developing. While the screening tools are the best we have at present, nothing is perfect. It is possible that a cancer can be missed during screening if it is not bleedling at the time when the test is taken. That’s why people are being encouraged to take the test every two years.

Although the Colorectal Cancer Screening Program is being phased in across the province and will not be available to everyone in March 2009, people can still be screened by requesting a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) from their family doctor.

More information about colorectal cancer, and details about the Colorectal Cancer Screening Program is available here or by calling 1-866-599-2267.

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