Colorectal cancer screening available

Residents of Summerland are eligible for screening for colorectal cancer offered at Penticton Regional Hospital.

Residents of Summerland are eligible for screening for colorectal cancer offered at Penticton Regional Hospital.

Currently in B.C. only Penticton, Powell River and parts of Vancouver have screening programs that people can contact to be tested for colorectal cancer.

New Democrat leader Adrian Dix is launching a public service awareness campaign to encourage British Columbians between the ages of 50 to 74 to get checked for colorectal cancer, which can be prevented and stopped if caught early enough.

“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Canada, and disproportionately affects people between 50 and 74. But chances of survival can increase to 90 per cent when polyps, where the cancer develops, are found and removed before they become dangerous tumors, or during the early stages of the disease,” said Dix.

“Simply put, early detection works, and it saves lives and health care costs. However, too many individuals do not know that the time to get checked is before they experience problems that could be symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and hemorrhaging.”

As part of the awareness campaign, Dix has prepared a public service announcement urging people between 50 and 74 to get screened. In the PSA, Dix shares how his mother survived colorectal cancer thanks to a combination of early detection and excellent primary care.‚

“The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer has found that while 80 per cent of Canadians recognize the importance of getting screened, 60 per cent do not understand that the time to get tested is before they start experiencing symptoms.”

In the PSA, Dix also expresses his hopes for B.C. to join the ranks of Ontario by rolling out a province-wide colorectal screening program: “According to recent data, only 37 per cent of people between 50 to 74 seek out preventative screening for colorectal cancer in B.C.”

A recent study published in the B.C. Medical Association Journal showed how a significant proportion of colorectal cancer patients in Vernon were first diagnosed in the hospital emergency room.

This emphasizes the importance of establishing a B.C.-wide screening program.

“The study, which tracked patients over a year, found that 43 per cent of patients with tumors in their colon or rectum were diagnosed at Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s emergency room after experiencing severe complications associated with later stages of the disease.

The author of the study, Dr. Hamish Hwang has suggested this high rate of colorectal cancer emergencies could stem in part from the lack of a B.C.-wide colorectal cancer screening program.

Summerland residents over 50 can call 604-707-5965 or 1-877-70-Colon to request a screening test to complete at home.

In British Columbia, nearly 3000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and close to 1,100 will die from it.

The NDP campaign says up to 15,000 colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented in the age group 50 to 74 in the next 10 years if screening becomes more commonplace.