Almost half of colorectal cancers are found after they have already spread

25 July 2018

Jeff Orson, a Toronto-based singer songwriter, knew something was wrong when he began losing sleep and feeling exhausted. Because Jeff was in his 50s, his doctor asked him to get a stool test. After a positive result, his follow-up tests revealed troubling news. Jeff had stage 2 colon cancer. He had surgery to remove his tumour and is now cancer-free. According to a new report from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), Jeff was one of the lucky ones.

The 2018 Canadian Cancer Statistics special report explores the stage at which cancers are diagnosed in Canada. A critical takeaway from this report was that almost half of colorectal cancers are found after they have already spread – at stage 3 or 4 – despite the availability of screening programs.

Colorectal cancer screening tests can help catch these cancers earlier or even before they start. But too few Canadians are taking advantage of this opportunity. As a result, colorectal cancer continues to be the second leading cause of cancer death in Canada.

Jeff now hopes to spread the word about the importance of cancer screening.

"I encourage everyone to take charge of their own health and talk to their doctor about screening," says Jeff, who lives in Toronto. "Don't wait until you have symptoms like I did. I was lucky that my cancer was caught early and had not spread beyond my colon. If my doctor had not recommended the stool test, who knows where I would be today. Take the test, it could save your life."

CCS recommends that Canadians aged 50 to 74 who are not at high risk for colorectal cancer get screened every 2 years with a simple at-home stool test. We encourage everyone to talk to their healthcare professional about what cancer screening options are right for them.

You can learn more about colorectal cancer screening on cancer.ca and the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2018 special report at cancer.ca/statistics.