Do you know if your husband/partner/dad has been checked for colon cancer? Encourage the men in your life to request a take-home test!
What is colorectal cancer?
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), which is the lower part of the digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last six inches of the colon. Together, they are referred to as colorectal cancer.
Is colorectal cancer common?
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women. It is estimated that in 2017, 10,400 Ontarians (about 5,700 men and 4,700 women) were diagnosed with colon cancer and approximately 3,250 Ontarians (1,750 men and 1,500 women) died from the disease.
Screening can help prevent and detect cancer early – here’s how!
Screening means having a test when you feel well and not experiencing any symptoms. Colon cancer usually starts from small benign growths in the colon or rectum called polyps. Screening tests can detect polyps and provide the opportunity to have them removed before they become cancerous. Screening can also detect cancers at an early stage when there is up to a 90 percent chance of being cured.
Who gets colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer usually occurs in people over 50. Both men and women can get colorectal cancer. Most people diagnosed with colorectal cancer have no family history of the disease.
How can I reduce the risk of colorectal cancer?
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Be physically active as part of everyday life.
- Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
- Eat a diet high in fibre (including vegetables and fruit).
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
- Get screened!
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Many people with colorectal cancer have no symptoms. However, symptoms may include:
- blood on or in your stool;
- pain aches or cramps in your stomach that do not go away; and/or
- losing weight without knowing why.
What kind of screening tests are recommended?
- At Home Stool Test (e.g. Fecal Occult Blood Test)
- If you are aged 50 to 74 years with no family history of colorectal cancer, you are considered to be at average risk for developing the disease and you should be screened every 2 years with a fecal occult blood test(FOBT). This is a simple self -administered test that is available free of charge from your family physician and can be completed at home.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: There is another safe screening test for colorectal cancer for people who have an average risk of getting colorectal cancer. It is called flexible sigmoidoscopy, a procedure to examine the lining of the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower third of the colon). A flexible sigmoidoscopy (fs) does not require sedation and the preparation is simple. This is usually done every 10 years depending on the findings.
- Colonoscopy: If you have a first degree relative (i.e. parent, sibling or child) with a history of colorectal cancer, you are at increased risk. You should be screened with a colonoscopy beginning at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age at which your relative was diagnosed, whichever occurs first. Colonoscopy should also be considered for screening if you have inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis. A colonoscopy is also the recommended follow-up test for those who have a positive FOBT test. Most people with a positive FOBT do not have colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is usually recommended every 10 years.
Discuss with you your doctor or nurse practitioner which screening test best for you.
Where to get more information about colorectal cancer screening?
Your family doctor or nurse practitioner can provide you with more information and assist you in deciding the best screening test for you.
Visit the ColonCancerCheck Program website www.ontario.ca/coloncancercheck.