Colon Cancer Fact Check – Setting the Story Straight with Dr. Nicole Zavagnin
Dr. Nicole Zavagnin, Regional Primary Care Lead for Cancer Care Ontario at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, provides the top facts you should know to help check off your cancer screening ‘to do’ list, including completing a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit.
By Katherine Mayer - March 24, 2018
The stats are in! Colon cancer screening rates in Northwestern Ontario are low, especially when compared to the rest of our province’s screening rates. Many people, regardless of their location in the North, put off their cancer screening ‘to do’ list, putting themselves at a greater risk of running into serious health problems later in their lives. To set the story straight on colon cancer screening, Dr. Nicole Zavagnin, Regional Primary Care Lead for Cancer Care Ontario at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, provides her top facts to help you check off your cancer screening ‘to do’ list.
In Northwestern Ontario, over 40% of eligible adults are overdue for colon cancer screening, meaning they have not been screened within the recommended two year guideline.
People between the ages of 50 and 74 are considered to be at average risk for getting colon cancer, if they do not have a parent, brother, sister or child who has been diagnosed with colon cancer. These people should get checked every two years with the safe and painless take-home, 'do it yourself', test called the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit. To receive a FOBT kit to be screened for colon cancer, contact your health care provider, the Screen for Life Coach (1-807-684-7777 or 1-800-461-7031), or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-828-9213).
People with a family history of colon cancer in a parent, brother, sister or child are at an increased risk for getting colon cancer. These individuals should be checked with a colonoscopy (instead of the FOBT) beginning at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age their relative was diagnosed, whichever comes first. Talk to your health care provider to see if a colonoscopy would be the right screening method for you.
When caught early, colon cancer is more easily treated and is considered curable in nine out of ten people.
If caught later, treating colon cancer is often more complex and it is less likely to be cured. Screening helps to find colon cancer early when there are no symptoms.
In Ontario, colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men, and third most common cause of cancer death in women.
Despite this, many men and women are not getting checked. Men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 at average risk should get checked for colon cancer every two years with the FOBT kit. The risk of colon cancer rises in both men and women after the age of 50, which makes screening an important part of regular health maintenance.
You can help reduce your risk of getting colon cancer by making simple lifestyle changes.
These include being active every day, eating a diet high in fibre, maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting alcohol intake, limiting red and processed meat consumption, and stopping to use tobacco products. These healthy activities help to reduce your risk of other cancers and chronic disease as well, making them a great benefit to your overall health!
To determine your risk of developing colon cancer, and five other types of cancer, complete an online risk assessment called ‘My CancerIQ’, found at www.mycanceriq.ca. For more information on colon cancer screening, visit www.tbrhsc.net/cancerscreening.