By Joseph Hanna
GET TING PEOPLE TO talk about colorectal
cancer isn’t easy. Who wants to talk about private bodily functions and embarrassing tests?
But because colorectal cancer is 90 per cent
preventable if detected early, talking about it
can save lives and actually make a difference.
March is colorectal cancer awareness
month, so it’s the perfect time to do just that.
Let’s spread the word about colorectal can-
cer and take action toward its prevention.
Here’s some information.
What is colorectal cancer?
It’s a cancer that starts in the colon or the
rectum. These are structures that make up the
last section of our digestive system. Colorectal
cancer usually starts as small, noncancerous
lumps of cells called polyps. However, over
time, some of these polyps can become can-
cerous and spread to other organs, making a
cure much less likely. Colorectal cancer is the
third most common cancer and the second
most common cause of death from cancer for
Canadian men and women.
What are the risk factors?
The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not
known; however, you may be at an increased
risk if you:
• Are 50 years of age or older.
• Have a family history of colorectal
cancer (especially immediate family).
• Have inflammatory bowel disease
(ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s) or polyps
in the colon or rectum.
• Smoke or consume too much alcohol.
• Are overweight, eat a diet high in fats
and cholesterol and low in fibre, or are
Since colorectal cancer often has no early
symptoms, almost half of those who are diagnosed find out at a later stage, when it’s too late.
Finding the polyps through early screening
and having them removed is key to reducing
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that people age 50 and older have a
stool test done at least every two years. Polyps
and tumours in the rectum or colon can release
small amounts of blood that are often not visible. The stool test checks for this hidden blood.
If you think you’re at risk for colorectal
cancer, talk to your pharmacist about a simple
stool test called the fecal occult blood test
(FOBT), which can be done at home. A positive stool test requires further investigation by
a colonoscopy. This is a test where the doctor
examines your colon for polyps and removes
them. Visit the Colorectal Cancer Association
of Canada website at colorectal-cancer.ca for
information about colorectal cancer and
Well, look at that. We’ve talked about
colorectal cancer and no one has died of embarrassment. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your risks
and if you need to be
screened. The key to
cancer is stopping it
before it starts. C
Joseph Hanna, B.Sc.
Phm., CDE, CGP,
is director of Costco
Pharmacies in Costco’s Quebec locations
are independently owned and operated.
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