Screening for colon cancer is simple and could save your life

A mobile cancer screening detection unit will be coming to Six Nations this May.

The Screen For Life Coach is a 45 foot bus which has a state-of-the-art digital mammography suite, two change rooms, a waiting room and an exam room. It is also wheelchair accessible.

The mobile unit will give people from Six Nations and New Credit First Nations a local opportunity to be screened for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer without a referral and without booking an appointment.

Dr. Andrea East, a family doctor at Gane:Yohs Medical Clinic in Ohsweken is also Cancer Care Ontario’s Regional Aboriginal Cancer Lead Physician for Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand and Brant areas.

Dr. East said, “Thirty percent of all cancers are colon cancer. Half of them are men and half of them are women. But we see escalating rates in aboriginal males because we are finding that aboriginal males don’t access doctors and are slow to access screening.”

Screening for colon cancer is not always invasive. There are currently two methods of screening for colon cancer in Ontario that are recommended every two years for those aged 50-74 years: the colonoscopy and non-invasive Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT).

A Fecal Occult Blood Test is simple, takes minutes, and can be done in the privacy of your own home. Testing kits can be discreetly picked up at Gane: Yohs and once complete dropped off at the laboratory. Results will be mailed to you in a confidential manner and any positive results forwarded to your family doctor.

Any positive results of the FOBT dropped off at Gane: Yohs for patients without a family doctor will be forwarded to Dr. East for referral.

Successful treatment is dependent on active engagement by patients and their medical team. “It’s truly all about us improving the first part of the cancer journey – the prevention, the screening and the quick diagnosis,” said East.

Statistically speaking, 30% of all cancers diagnosed in Canada are colon cancers. This March is colon cancer awareness month.

Dr. East says that according to current statistics – cancers of the breast, cervix and colon now make up 50% of all cancer rates in Ontario. On a positive note, Dr. East also says that these three cancers are now what she calls the “curable three”.

Combined with early screening and advances in treatment options, Dr. East says that they have seen a vast improvement in survivability of a cancer diagnosis.

Dr. East said the responsibility of keeping these three cancers “curable” is a shared work of educating both patients and healthcare providers. “It’s truly all about us as healthcare workers improving the first part of the cancer journey – the prevention, the screening and the quick diagnosis.” Dr. East told the Two Row Times, “We need to integrate traditional and western medicine. We’re seeing incredible progress in healthcare in the last three months.

We have made improvements in First Nations rates of prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and palliation.”

In fact, East says screening for breast, cervical and colon cancer is now so advanced that most cases are caught early enough to save lives. But First Nations patients are still falling through the cracks.

East shared that in the last eight months there were 64 First Nations patients referred to Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton. Of those 64 cases, only four were not end stage – meaning First Nations patients require better access to early detection.

Education on how to prevent cancers in the first place is also a part of the journey. East says things like quitting smoking, getting an HPV shot, eating a healthy diet, increased activity levels and decreased alcohol consumption all positively contribute to reducing the likelihood of developing breast, colorectal or cervical cancer.

To pick up an FOBT testing kit you can contact Gane:Yohs in Ohsweken by calling (519) 445-2251 or the INFOline at 1-866-410-5853.
To book an appointment on the Screen For Life Coach, please call 1-855-338-3131.

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