Colon Cancer

Mar 12, 2010

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

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The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

The camera pans in on a frazzled looking middle aged guy buried in paper on his desk. The name plate on the desk identifies him as the Senior Accounts Manager. The door to his office opens. In walks an older gentleman and a young dynamic fellow. The older gentleman is heard saying, and this what the offices look like. Of course the dcor can be changed to your liking and the older man wanders out of the office. The young man smiles, introduces himself and shakes the hand of the man behind the desk. The man behind the desk says, Welcome to the company. What position did you get anyway?. The young man answers, Senior Accounts Manager and leaves the room. Across the bottom of the screen scrolls, After 50, watch your behind! I love that commercial. And apparently March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common form of cancer in Manitoba. We had 800 new cases of CRC and 360 deaths from CRC in the province in 2009. Men have a 1 in 14 lifetime chance of getting CRC and women have a 1 in 15 chance. The reason for the After 50, watch your behind slogan is because 93% of cases of CRC happen after the age of 50. Like many cancers, the earlier it is caught, the easier it is to treat.

So why dont we talk about CRC if it is so common? Frankly, it has to do with the butt and that embarrasses us. And, for myself at least, the test that is talked about for CRC doesnt sound pleasant. The most common test is still the colonoscopy during which a camera goes where the sun doesnt shine. The colonoscopy isnt just a theoretical bad thing for me either. Ive got some colon cancer and colon polyps in my family tree. After I turn fifty, I fear someone will be watching my behind from a whole new angle.

Although it may not eliminate my future need for a colonoscopy, I was happy to hear about the ColonCheck Manitoba program. If you are between 50 and 74 you can call 1-866-744-8961 and ColonCheck Manitoba will ask you a few questions. They will ask things like if you age, if your have a colonscopy in the last 5 years and if you currently have colorectal cancer. If you qualify, ColonCheck Manitoba will send you a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) in the mail that you can do at home. I think that is great. It means squimish people like me can still watch their behind while getting colonoscopies less often.

What is a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)? A FOBT is basically a stick that lets you sample a little bit of your poop, seal it up and send it to the lab. The ColonCheck Manitoba people will contact you directly and will send the results to your family doctor if you have one. The test is looking to see if there is any hidden blood in your poop. Blood in your poop can be a warning sign of polyps in your colon or colorectal cancer. So if the FOBT comes back positive, you will be asked to get a colonoscopy to see what is going on. If the FOBT comes back negative, you should be able to skip the colonoscopy for at least 2 years.

What can you do to prevent CRC? Besides getting screened to catch the cancer early you can exercise and eat well. Amazing how those two things keep popping up. You should aim to exercise at least 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week. You should limit your intake of red meat and processed meats. You should get your 7-10 serving of fruits and vegetables per day. You should drink lots of water. You should have not more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day if you are a man and not more than 1 per day if you are a woman.

So after 50, watch your behind. And to steal another slogan from the commercials, you should care about CRC because you dont want to die of embarrassment.

Contact ColonCheck Manitoba at or 1-866-744-8961

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.


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