SIX NATIONS – A simple, safe and painless take-home test could save your life when it comes to colorectal cancer. The Reclaiming Well-Being Cancer Free Lives committee wants to see more men and women getting screened.
If everyone more than 50 years of age was screened for colon cancer the rate of colon cancer would drop significantly. Colon cancer is one of the curable three; the others are breast and cervical cancer.
“Colon cancer screening can be the difference between life and death,” said Dr. Andrea East, Six Nations family doctor and Regional Aboriginal Clinical Lead for Cancer Care Ontario (CCO).
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the Hamilton Niagara Norfolk Brant Aboriginal Regional Cancer Program has partnered with CCO to invite eligible men and women to get screened.
When some people hear mention of colon cancer screening the first thing that comes to mind is a potentially uncomfortable colonoscopy, which is an examination of the colon using a flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end. Dr. East wants people in the community to know that a colonoscopy is not the first option for most and that the usual screening process is not a colonoscopy, but a FOBT (fecal occult blood test).
The FOBT is safe, painless and can be done at home. It only takes a few minutes a day on three separate days to complete and is available free of charge to Ontarians with Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage. People without a healthcare provider can also get an FOBT kit by contacting Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213.
Most often, a person with colon cancer has no early warning signs, but possible signs are abdominal pain, change in stool size, shape and colour or rectal bleeding. For people who have a parent, sibling or child with a history of colon cancer the risk of developing the disease is higher. For these people, a colonoscopy is recommended beginning at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age at which their relative was diagnosed, whichever occurs first.
Dr. East said, “I have had a colonoscopy and the preparation was much easier than I thought it would be and the procedure was simple, painless and not embarrassing. I did not feel a thing.”
The Regional Aboriginal Cancer Program’s team includes Dr. East as Clinical Lead, Stephanie Morningstar, the Aboriginal Community Outreach Co-ordinator and Deena Klodt, the Aboriginal Navigator. Klodt advocates for Aboriginal cancer patients while they attend the cancer clinics and ensures they have a smooth transition home. Patients and families can contact Klodt directly at 905-387-9711 ext. 63312.
The team told the Two Row Times that some of the risk factors for developing colon cancer are tobacco smoking, consuming alcohol and red and processed meats, high amounts of abdominal fatness (obesity) and people with diabetes. Diabetics have a 30 per cent chance of developing cancer of the liver, colon and rectum, bladder, endometrium and breast cancer.
People can begin preventative measures now and being to reclaim their health and prevent developing cancer.
“Stop smoking, decrease your alcohol intake or stop drinking alcohol altogether and lower you intake of red meats and lunch meats,” said Morningstar. “Keep active and don’t forget how important getting screened is — there is a 90 per cent chance of being cured if the cancer is caught early enough through screening.”
Dr. East said, “In its later stages the outcomes are much worse. That’s why it’s so important to get screened every two years starting at age 50 until the age of 75. When a person reaches 50 years of age, the risk of colon cancer rises and continues to rise with age and there is an escalating rate in aboriginal men.”
Dr. East would like to challenge community organizations like the baseball, hockey and lacrosse associations, police and firemen to set the example and get screened for colon cancer.
This March, hockey legend Darryl Sittler has partnered with CCO and Colon Cancer Canada to increase awareness about the importance of screening. After losing his wife to colon cancer in 2001, Sittler now gets screened regularly and encourages his family and friends to do the same.
“People may assume that they don’t need to get screened for colon cancer if they have no symptoms, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Sittler. “Screening allows you to stay a step ahead of the game and find cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. Even if no one else in your family has had colon cancer, it’s important to get screened regularly to make sure you’re healthy.”
Colon screening kits are also available, without a requisition at the Gané Yohs Lab. Your family doctor will receive the results. If you do not have a family doctor Dr. East will arrange the appropriate follow up.
The Reclaiming Well Being Committee is composed of Six Nations and New Credit healthcare providers who are committed to improving the Cancer Journey for the Six Nations and New Credit communities. If you are 50 years of age or older, male or female complete a FOBT kit today. It could save your life.