Expanding colorectal screening can save lives: Dix
Penticton – New Democrat leader Adrian Dix proposes that the colorectal cancer screening program currently running in Penticton be expanded across the province.
“Chances of survival from colorectal cancer can increase to 90 per cent when polyps, where the cancer develops, are found and removed before becoming dangerous tumors, or during the early stages of the disease.
Currently, the Penticton –South Okanagan region is running one of B.C.'s few colorectal cancer screening programs, which initially began in 2009 as a part of a three year pilot project.
"I hope the Penticton program becomes common place across the province. But until then, I am also encouraging British Columbians between the ages of 50-74, who are most at risk for colorectal cancer, and those with a family history, to connect with their primary care provider about getting screened. I know from personal experience that early detection works, saving lives and health care costs," said Dix.
In addition to Penticton, Powell River and parts of Vancouver offer the only other community based screening programs that people can contact about getting tested for colorectal cancer. Residents in these areas can call 1-877-70-Colon to request a screening test that can be completed at home. Otherwise, individuals need to talk to their physician or primary care provider about testing. .
On this note, the NDP leader has launched a screening awareness campaign, which includes a public service announcement, urging people in this age group to learn about screening.
"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," explains Dix.
In the PSA,, which is currently airing online on social media and health promotion networks – including the Canadian Cancer Society and Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.- Dix also shares his own family’s experience with colorectal cancer, and expresses his hopes for B.C. to join the ranks of Ontario by rolling out a province-wide colorectal screening program.
A recent study published in the B.C. Medical Association Journal revealed how a significant proportion of colorectal cancer patients in Vernon were first diagnosed in the hospital emergency room. Tracking patients over a year, it 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.
Evaluations involving the Penticton-South Okanagan screening program find it to be successful, with over 90 per cent of participants completing the initial take home test, and 95 per cent of individuals who require additional testing undergoing follow up colonoscopies.
Dix noted that the assessments also show how screening programs promote better use of health care resources. "For example, the initial screening test for people without a family history is a take home test, rather than a colonoscopy which requires more resources. After tests detect the possibility of polyps, program staff, who are nurses, set up and help individuals prepare for the next procedures, reducing their wait for answers and treatment, plus the workload of doctors.
"As a result, an overwhelming majority of patients and physicians surveyed endorse the current colorectal screening programs available in Penticton, Powell River or parts of Vancouver - they register a 95 per cent satisfaction rate among patients and 100 per cent with physicians. "
In British Columbia, nearly 3000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and over 1100 will die from it.
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.