March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario is encouraging Ontarians to speak to their family doctor or nurse practitioner about getting checked for colon cancer using a simple, painless at home test. When caught early, nine out of every 10 people with colon cancer can be cured.
“Finding colon cancer early leads to more successful and less invasive treatments than finding it later when symptoms have developed,” says Dr. Hugh Langley, Regional Primary Care Lead. “This makes it more important than ever to encourage the men and women in your life to get checked for this cancer beginning at age 50, even if they have no family history of the disease or if they don’t have any uncomfortable symptoms such as persistent diarrhea or stomach pain.”
Regular colon cancer screening is important because it can find cancer and pre-cancerous polyps early when they are easier to treat. As well, research has shown that getting checked for colon cancer regularly when you feel well can reduce your risk of death from colon cancer.
Other important considerations to help reduce the risk of colon cancer include lifestyle changes.
“Like many other cancers, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and not smoking can all lower your risk for colon cancer in addition to early detection through screening,” says Langley.
Men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 should be screened for colon cancer, even if no one in their family has had the disease. You may be at “increased risk” if you have a family history of colon cancer in one or more first-degree relatives (parent, brother, sister or child) who have been diagnosed with this disease. People at “increased risk” should be screened by colonoscopy starting at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age their first degree relative was diagnosed with colon cancer, whichever comes first.
To learn more about screening, speak to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about getting checked. If you do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. If you live on a First Nation reserve, contact your health centre or nursing station.