Northeast Cancer Centre encourages men and women to get checked regularly for colon cancer

Sudbury, ON – March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the Northeast Cancer Centre is encouraging men and women to get checked with a safe and painless take-home test. When caught early, nine out of every 10 people with colon cancer can be cured.

Colon cancer (commonly called ‘colorectal cancer’ or ‘bowel cancer’) is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. It is estimated that in 2016, approximately 9,900 Ontarians were diagnosed with colon cancer and approximately 3,200 Ontarians died from the disease. Despite this fact, many people are not getting checked – particularly men.

“While colon cancer screening is important for both men and women between the ages of 50 and 74,  colon cancer is on the rise in men in their 50s in particular, says Koop Alkema, Manager, Cancer Screening, Northeast Cancer Centre, Health Sciences North. “This makes it more important than ever to encourage the men in your life to get checked for this disease beginning in their early 50s – even if they have no family history of the disease or if they don’t have any symptoms.”

Cancer Care Ontario recommends that men and women, at average risk between the ages of 50 and 74, get checked for colon cancer with a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years. The FOBT is a safe and painless cancer screening test that checks a person’s stool for tiny drops of blood, which could be caused by colon cancer. An abnormal FOBT result does not necessarily mean that a person has colon cancer, but more testing with a colonoscopy is needed to find out why there is blood in their stool.

Recently, Gwen Rannelli was diagnosed with cancer at age 73. She was always afraid to be screened even after her doctor recommended it. “I was always encouraged to be screened but I was too scared. After I was diagnosed, I realized how important it is to take care of yourself and take the time to be screened. I encourage my friends and family members as often as possible to use the kits and make the appointments. It could save their lives”, says Gwen Rannelli, cancer patient from Sudbury.

“Many people don’t realize that colon cancer may be present in the body for a long time before it causes physical symptoms. The role of screening is to catch the cancer early because it is highly treatable at that stage,” says Koop Alkema, “For people over 50, getting checked regularly can improve their chances of beating colon cancer. Men between the ages of 55 and 65 would particularly benefit from getting checked.”

Colon cancer can develop when growths on the lining of the colon, called polyps, turn into cancer over time. People between 50 and 74 years of age without a parent, brother, sister or child who has been diagnosed with colon cancer are considered to be at average risk for the disease and should get checked every two years with the safe and painless FOBT take-home test.

Some people who have had polyps removed from their colon, as well as people with inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), may be at increased risk for developing colon cancer and may need to be checked regularly with colonoscopy instead of an FOBT.

Talk to your healthcare provider today about getting checked for colon cancer with a take-home FOBT kit. People without a family doctor or nurse practitioner can get a kit through Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213.

For more information on colon cancer screening in Ontario, visit