Simple home-based colon cancer screening test can prevent many unnecessary deaths in Canada

April 01, 2016

continued emphasis on screening, including: more research into the risk factors for colorectal cancer and effective prevention and treatment

"By becoming more aware of colorectal cancer, how to screen for it and how to prevent it, Canadians can help ensure they are looking after themselves and their families," says Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer.

A survivor's storyTo her friends, 55-year-old Kavita Jagasia is a walking billboard for the importance of regular colorectal cancer screening.

"Because of what happened to me, now they've all been screened," says Kavita, diagnosed with colorectal cancer in July 2008. "Everybody suddenly woke up."

The Toronto-area account manager in corporate travel was diagnosed after several months of noticing redness in her stool. She told herself it was nothing to worry about, but friends started commenting on her weight loss even though she wasn't dieting. Urged by her husband, she went to her family doctor. A colonoscopy showed she had stage 2 colorectal cancer. Surgery two weeks later removed the tumour and further treatment was not required.

Kavita considers herself lucky, but says a simple screening tool like the fecal occult blood test (FOBT or FIT) could have made much of her experience unnecessary.

People may not want to do it because they think it's "gross," she says, but "if I had done it I probably would have been treated much earlier.  I probably would have been treated at the polyp stage, rather than a full-blown cancer."

While a healthy lifestyle may reduce people's cancer risk, Kavita knows that being of normal weight, a vegetarian, non-smoker and non-drinker was not enough to prevent her own cancer.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody," she says.

General highlights: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011

An estimated 177,800 new cases of cancer (excluding 74,100 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer) and 75,000 deaths from cancer are expected to occur in Canada in 2011. More men than women are diagnosed with cancer, but the gap between the two sexes has narrowed in recent years (52% of cases are in men versus 48% in women). More than one-quarter of all cancer deaths - 27% - are due to lung cancer. The death rate for all cancers combined is declining for males in most age groups and for females under 70. There were no increases in death rates for most types of cancer in men or women. Notable exceptions include liver (both sexes), lung (women) and melanoma (men). The five-year relative survival rate for all cancers combined is 62%.

SOURCE Canadian Cancer Society (National Office)