March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
Are you or is someone you love over 50? Then it might be time to pick up an at-home screening test for colon cancer. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and the South West Regional Cancer Program is encouraging people to speak to their primary care provider about getting checked for colon cancer.
Colon cancer (commonly called ‘colorectal cancer’ or ‘bowel cancer’ is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ontario. Evidence shows that getting checked regularly can reduce deaths from colon cancer. If caught early, nine out of 10 people with the disease can be cured.
What causes colon cancer and how can it be prevented?
There are many reasons someone may develop colon cancer—some reasons are better understood than others. However, we know that polyps can sometimes turn into cancer over time. Some habits or risk factors can increase a person’s risk for developing colon cancer. Some steps you can take to reduce your risk are:
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink - men should have no more than two drinks a day and women should have no more than one drink a day
- Limit red meat and try not to eat processed meat (e.g., bologna or salami)
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Be physically active as part of everyday life
- Get checked for colon cancer
Who should be screened for colon cancer?
Regular screening is essential because it can find pre-cancerous polyps early when they are easier to treat. Cancer Care Ontario recommends that people who have no symptoms and are at average risk of getting colon cancer get checked every two years. Being at average risk means you are between the ages of 50-74 with no first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister or child) who has been diagnosed with colon cancer.
If you have no symptoms but have a family history of colon cancer, then you are at an increased risk of getting and should start screening at age 50 or ten years earlier than the age their relative was first diagnosed – whichever comes first.
Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about getting checked for colon cancer. If you don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, you can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. If you live on a First Nation reserve, contact your health centre or nursing station.