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Ed Branton

Colon cancer screening test gets an A+

When Ed Branton, who is 64,  received his colon cancer home screening kit in the mail, he initially decided he would not take part. “I was reluctant to do it,” he says. “I felt good, and I take care of myself.”

Still, he didn’t throw the test out. Although no one close to him had been diagnosed with colon cancer, he knew that there was a lot of cancer in his family. This thought went through his mind every time he saw the unopened screening kit lying on his counter. “I finally said, ‘What the heck,’ and did the test. It was fairly easy. It took all of 10 minutes.”

CCNS’s Colon Cancer Prevention Program
The Facts:
-As of March 25, 2011 Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Colon Cancer Prevention Program is available across Nova Scotia

-The program is intended for people between the ages of 50 and 74 who have no warning signs of the disease. People who have concerns or symptoms of colon cancer should not wait for a screening test, they speak with their family doctor about the test that’s right for them.

-The Program is being phased in across the province over the next two years. People born in even years will be mailed kits shortly after their birthday in even years. Those born in odd years receive their kits during odd years. Participants are re-invited every two years following the initial invitation. Doing the test once is not enough. It needs to be done every two years to be effective.

- For more information about CCNS’s Colon Cancer Prevention Program, visit or call 1-866-599-2267.

Ed says those 10 minutes saved his life. He shared his story at the province-wide launch of the program in Capital Health on March 25, 2011. Ed, who lives with his wife in Martin’s River, was among the first to receive an invitation to complete the home screening test.

Ten days after he put his kit in the mail, he received a call from the district screening nurse saying he needed to have a followup test called a colonoscopy. She met with Ed and his wife, discussed his screening results and explained what a colonoscopy is, including its risks and benefits and how to prepare for the procedure.

Ed had the colonoscopy, during which two polyps were found and removed. The polyps were sent to the lab and Ed was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of colon cancer. Generally, only one in thousands of this specific type of colon cancer is detected at the earliest stage when cure through colonoscopy is possible, as it was  in Ed’s case. Because Ed’s cancer was found very early, he did not need any additional treatment following the colonoscopy.

“Another three or four months and my story would not have been so positive,” says Ed. “I’m very thankful I did the test.”

His family doctor, who received a copy of the results, was amazed that the cancer had been detected, he adds. “My doctor was so pleased I had done the test and told me the cancer would likely have gone undetected otherwise.”

CCPP launch1


Pictured from L-R are: Erika Nicholson, CCNS Director of Cancer Prevention and Early Detection, Ed Branton and his wife, __, Dr. Bernard Badley, Medical Director, CCNS Colon Cancer Prevention Program

Ed’s success story is a nod to the value of the Colon Cancer Prevention Program and underscores the expertise of the colonoscopist.

Because colon cancer can run in families, Ed has now contacted his family members and they are also being tested.

For Ed, the process from screening to colonoscopy was a positive one, thanks in large part to Melinda Dorey, the district screening nurse. “Because of Melinda, I knew what to expect when I went for my procedure,” says Ed. “There was nothing that she omitted. That was comforting. She was also there during the colonoscopy.”

“There are a lot of things that go through your mind when something like this happens. It’s difficult to be calm,” says Ed. “But once you’re there, the process is very smooth and you’re made to feel comfortable.”

Colon cancer is a very common cancer. Each year, It touches the lives of approximately 800 Nova Scotia men and women . Almost half of those diagnosed will eventually die of the disease.

 "This program is an important part of the province's commitment to providing better care sooner," said MLA Leonard Preyra, on behalf of Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald. "This is an exciting day as Nova Scotians in every region will now have access to the screening tools that play a key role in preventing, detecting and treating colon cancer early."

Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Colon Cancer Prevention Program is intended to identify individuals with colon cancer early when the disease is more successfully treated. “This program will save lives,” says Dr. Bernard Badley, the Program’s Medical Director.

“Colon cancer,” he notes, “is a potentially preventable cancer.”

Colon cancer, also called colorectal and bowel cancer, usually has a very long pre-cancerous stage. The cancer often starts as small growths called polyps, and screening can help find them early before they turn into cancer.

“If we identify the cancer early, there are opportunities to take action,” notes Dr. Badley. “With screening, studies show we can potentially reduce the number of people who will die of the disease by one-third.”

Ed’s advice: When the screening kit lands in your mailbox, take the test. “If there’s something that is holding you back from doing the test, ignore those thoughts and just do it. I’m glad I did.”