Why screening is critical for colorectal cancers
With nearly 1 in 2 Canadians expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, about half of the people we see in our day to day lives – our friends, family, neighbours and co-workers – may hear the words, “you have cancer”.
Whether you or a loved one hear those words at an early or late stage of the disease can make all the difference.
The 2018 Canadian Cancer Statistics special report explores the stage in which cancers are diagnosed in Canada, with a focus on the top 4 most commonly diagnosed cancers (lung, colorectal, female breast and prostate) and cervical cancer.
A critical takeaway from this report was that almost half of colorectal cancers are found after they have already spread – in stage 3 or 4 – despite availability of screening programs.
Screening for colorectal cancer is easy and convenient, and it can help catch cancer early or even before it starts. Colorectal cancer screening starts with a simple test that can often be done at home. The test is designed to check your stool for blood. Pre-cancerous polyps and cancerous tumours in the colon have blood vessels that can release a small amount of blood into the stool. Stool tests check for this hidden blood, which you can’t see with your eyes. Having blood in your stool doesn’t always mean that you have polyps or cancer. If a stool test shows traces of blood in the stool, more tests need to be done to find out where the blood is coming from and why.
We recommend that Canadians aged 50 to 74 who are not at high risk for colorectal cancer get screened every 2 years with a simple stool test.
You may be at high risk of colorectal cancer if, for example, your family member has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer or you have a personal history of certain types of polyps in the colon or rectum. We encourage all Canadians to speak with their healthcare providers about their risk of cancer and become aware of what screening strategies are right for them.
Today, more than 60% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer will survive compared to about 25% in the 1940s. It’s clear that progress is being made, but if cancer was caught earlier for more Canadians, we could improve and save more lives. Speak to your doctor and learn more about screening.
The Canadian Cancer Statistics publication is developed through a partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada, in collaboration with the provincial and territorial cancer registries. Read the full report.