Not enough Saskatchewan people being screened for colorectal cancer

18 May 2011

Regina -

Many unnecessary colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if more people used a simple at-home screening test, according to a special report about colorectal cancer in Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011 released today by the Canadian Cancer Society, in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

If 80% of Canadians aged 50+ were screened over the next decade, it is estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 deaths could be prevented. 

It is estimated that 270 people in Saskatchewan will die from colorectal cancer this year, making it the second leading cause of cancer death. It is also the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the province.  An estimated 690 people will be diagnosed with the disease in 2011.

The Society recommends that all people between the ages of 50 and 74 get screened every two years with a simple stool test that they can do at home (known as FOBT or FIT).  Currently, only 28% of Saskatchewan residents in this age group report having been screened. “One of the best defenses against colorectal cancer is early detection. This simple at-home test saves lives because it can detect cancer in people who have no symptoms,” says Donna Ziegler, Director, Cancer Control, for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan.

The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) test for trace amounts of blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer. “It’s very important that doctors talk to their patients about screening. People who do have that discussion are twice as likely to get screened regularly,” says Ziegler. People with symptoms or at higher risk of colorectal cancer are also encouraged to talk to their doctors.

All Saskatchewan residents have access to screening for colorectal cancer through their physicians. But now, the Saskatchewan cancer Agency has launched an organized population-based screening program where residents receive a FIT test kit that can be used at home. The Five Hills, Kelsey Trail and most recently, communities in northern health regions are currently participating in this program.  It is expected that the screening program will be province-wide by 2012/13.  “We are pleased with the results from Five Hills” said Sandra Meeres, Manager of the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency’s Screening Program for Colorectal Cancer. “Today, 74 people who had pre-cancerous polyps removed do not have to endure invasive cancer treatment.”  

By the end of the year, the Cancer Agency expects to have the Screening Program for Colorectal Cancer operating in six health regions including the Regina Qu’appelle health region.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer include a diet high in red or processed meat, being overweight, physically inactivity, smoking and a family history of the disease. The best way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer– along with regular screening – are eating a healthy diet, being physically active in order to maintain a healthy body weight, not smoking and avoiding excessive drinking.

General highlights:  Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011

An estimated 5,200 new cases of cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) and 2,350 deaths from cancer are expected to occur in Saskatchewan in 2011

About one-quarter of all cancer deaths in Saskatchewan – 24% - are due to lung cancer

The death rate for all cancers combined is declining for males in most age groups and for females under 70.

Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011 is prepared, printed and distributed through a collaboration of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada and provincial and territorial cancer registries.

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For more information, please contact:

Donna Pasiechnik

Manager, Tobacco Control, Media & Government Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Saskatchewan Division

Phone: 306-790-9871