Intro to colon cancer

It’s way, way, way better to get screened then to have to go through eight weeks of radiation! David

Did you know that a simple test can detect colon cancer early, or even prevent it before it starts? And did you know that gay and bisexual men have higher risk factors for colon cancer? And yet, our colon cancer screening rates are low. Studies show that we are less likely to go to the doctor because of negative past experiences, or fear of mistreatment. Or maybe colon cancer isn’t a top-of-mind concern.

Still, screening for colon cancer can save your life. Screening means checking for cancer before you have any symptoms. Screening can stop cancer before it starts, or find cancer early, when treatment works best. When caught early, colon cancer is 90% treatable. Even better is the news that most of us can screen for colon cancer in the privacy of our own homes.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that all people age 50 and over age living in Ontario get screened regularly for colon cancer. If you’re a 50+ man who has sex with other men, click here to learn more about colon cancer, risk factors and information on how to get screened.

Why colon cancer?

You may be wondering why we’re focusing on colon cancer when there are so many other types of cancer to worry about. (We also focus on breast and cervical cancer for people at risk for these cancers.)

In Ontario, we focus on screening for these types of cancer for a few reasons.

First, these three cancers are relatively common, and so it makes sense to screen for them rather than screening for rarer cancers. Second, we have reliable and proven screening tests to check for each of these cancers at very early stages or even before they start, when treatment is easiest and most effective. We can more easily offer these tests to the populations at risk for these cancers. We don’t (yet) have similar screening tests for other types of cancer.

As well, these cancers can be caught early or even prevented with screening. If caught early, they are very easy to treat. If these cancers aren't detected until later stages, though, treatment is much longer and more painful — and may not be as successful.

Finally, we know that the screening tests for cervical, breast and colon cancer benefit large groups of people. For example, we know that all adults age 50 and over should be screened for colon cancer, and that anyone with a cervix who is sexually active should be screened for cervical cancer starting from the age of 21. Similarly, breast cancer screening is appropriate for any person over age 50 to 69 with breast tissue. But we don’t have the same evidence that population-wide screening would reduce the rates of other types of cancers.

So, that’s why we screen for breast, colon and cervical cancer. If you’re at risk for a different type of cancer, or if you have symptoms that you think may be cancer related, it’s important to get checked out by your doctor and create a personalized cancer screening plan that works for you.

Talking about colon cancer early doesn’t have to be scary. When caught early, colon cancer is 90% curable!