The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and Ludovick Bourgeois will take advantage of the month of March, Colorectal Cancer (also called colon cancer) Awareness Month, to educate Quebecers 50 to 74 years old about a test that can detect colon cancer early on and encourage them to speak to their doctor1 about taking the test every two years, either face-to-face or by virtual consultation during the pandemic.
Colorectal cancer still develops, even during a pandemic. In Canada, one in two cases of colorectal cancer is currently diagnosed once it has spread to other parts of the body. Knowing that 6 in 10 Quebecers 50 to 74 years old still don’t undergo the colon cancer screening test every two years, the CCS is appealing to the public to change those numbers and to remind people that when colon cancer is detected at an early stage, the odds of being successfully treated increase and the five-year survival rate is at least 90%, while at an advanced stage, the survival rate is only 13%. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Quebec, but we can dethrone it thanks to the FIT screening test.
"If he had known there was a screening test, my father would have taken it for sure,” insists singer Ludovick Bourgeois, son of Patrick Bourgeois, who sadly died of colon cancer. “Making noise is my job. I want to encourage people to break the silence on this silent killer and talk about colon cancer screening. That’s how more people will survive!"
FIT screening test: non-invasive, simple and can be taken at home
Colon cancer often leaves traces of blood in the stool invisible to the naked eye. The colon cancer screening test is simple, fast, painless, and can easily be taken at home in less than 2 minutes. It involves taking a stool sample to be analyzed at a lab.
"The colon cancer screening test can detect precancerous lesions, which can be easily and safely removed before they turn into cancer. If necessary, you will be monitored by a qualified specialist,” added Dr Mélanie Bélanger, President and Spokesperson of the Association des gastro-entérologues du Québec.
Safe even during a pandemic
The CCS would remind the public that even during a pandemic, early detection of cancer is of crucial importance, because colorectal cancer can be a silent killer and people should continue to prioritize their health. The CCS would encourage the public to follow public health guidelines and sanitary measures. When necessary, travel to health establishments is safe if health measures are followed. The CCS would also stress that if you have health concerns, such as signs or symptoms of cancer or other serious illness, you should not hesitate to consult with a doctor.
"Even during a pandemic, if you’re over 50, don’t hesitate to discuss the FIT screening test with your doctor,” explains Dr Claude Rivard who, in addition to being a family doctor himself in Sainte-Julie and a member or the board of the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ), is a colon cancer survivor. The doctor's prescription will allow you to get a free test kit from a collection centre near you. “Early detection of cancer is of paramount importance, even during a pandemic. If you follow health measures, going to a collection centre to collect or return a test is safe.”
After taking the test, the sample must be brought to a collection centre for analysis, and additional investigations will be made if the test is positive. A positive test doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of cancer, but it’s important to follow the doctor's recommendations.
- Every year, around 6,800 Quebecers are diagnosed with colon cancer and 2,650 people die of the disease.
- Colorectal cancer kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. In fact, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in Quebec, after lung cancer.
- Nearly 95% of colorectal cancer cases occur after the age of 50.
How does colon cancer manifest itself?
Colon cancer starts in the large intestine. It usually develops from polyps, small masses of flesh growing on the inner walls of the large intestine which can turn into cancer over time. A colon cancer screening test can detect early-stage cancer and the presence of polyps, which are removed during a colonoscopy if the test to detect blood in the stool is positive.
Ways to reduce your colon cancer risk, according to the CCS
- Take the at home screening test every two years
- Don’t smoke
- Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day
- Adopt good eating habits:
- Limit alcohol intake
- Limit consumption of red meat and cold cuts
- Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and fibres
- Preferably choose whole grains
- Maintain a healthy weight
About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and shape health policies to prevent cancer and support those living with the disease.
Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit cancer.ca today.
For more information:
To arrange an interview with Ludovick Bourgeois, a CCS spokesperson, or a specialist, contact Magalie Difolco by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 514 833-2757.
1Immunochemical fecal occult blood test (invisible to the naked eye) or FIT. While this test isn’t infallible, there is scientific evidence that regularly taking such tests lowers one’s colon cancer death risk.
For every 1,000 people who take the screening test, only 36 will have an abnormal result and have to undergo a colonoscopy. Of those 36 people:
- 4 will have colorectal cancer;
- 17 will have one or more polyps removed (small masses of flesh that grow in the large intestine which can turn into cancer);
- 15 will have no polyps and no cancer.