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When Caught Early, Colon Cancer Is More Likely to Be Treated Successfully

March 1, 2017

2 min read

Colon Cancer Is Among the Most Common Cause of Cancer Death in Ontarians

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March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and Cancer Care Ontario is encouraging Ontarians to get checked with a safe and painless take-home test. When caught early, 9 out of every 10 people with colon cancer can be cured.

Colon cancer (commonly called ‘colorectal cancer’ or ‘bowel cancer’) is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. It is estimated that in 2016, approximately 9,900 Ontarians were diagnosed with colon cancer and approximately 3,200 Ontarians died from the disease. Despite this fact, many people are not getting checked – particularly men.

“Many people don’t realize that colon cancer may be present in the body for a long time before it causes physical symptoms. The role of screening is to catch the cancer early because it is highly treatable at that stage,” says Dr. Catherine Dubé, Clinical Lead, ColonCancerCheck, Cancer Care Ontario. “For people over 50, getting checked regularly can improve their chances of beating colon cancer. Men between the ages of 55 and 65 would particularly benefit from getting checked.”

Cancer Care Ontario recommends that men and women at average risk between the ages of 50 and 74 get checked for colon cancer with a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every 2 years. The FOBT is a safe and painless cancer screening test that checks a person’s stool (poop) for tiny drops of blood, which could be caused by colon cancer. An abnormal FOBT result does not necessarily mean that a person has colon cancer, but more testing with a colonoscopy is needed to find out why there is blood in their stool.

Research shows that regular screening using an FOBT, for people who are 50 years of age and older, can reduce deaths from colon cancer. If colon cancer is caught after it has spread to other parts of the body, treating it is harder and less likely to be successful. For people whose colon cancer has spread, as few as 1 out of 8 will be cured.

“When it comes to colon cancer, early detection is key,” says Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “Despite being one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in Ontario’s men and women, colon cancer is highly treatable when caught early so it is important for Ontarians between the ages of 50 and 74 to get checked regularly.”

Colon cancer can develop when growths on the lining of the colon, called polyps, turn into cancer over time. People between 50 and 74 years of age without a parent, brother, sister or child who has been diagnosed with colon cancer are considered to be at average risk for the disease and should get checked every 2 years with the safe and painless take-home test, called the FOBT.

Some people who have had polyps removed from their colon, as well as people with inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), may be at increased risk for developing colon cancer and may need to be checked regularly with colonoscopy instead of an FOBT.

Talk to your healthcare provider today about getting checked for colon cancer with a take-home FOBT kit. People without a family doctor or nurse practitioner can get a kit through Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213, community pharmacies and mobile screening coaches.

For more information on colon cancer screening in Ontario, visit cancercare.on.ca/colon.