New colorectal screening program unveiled
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Last week the BC government made the announcement that a new colorectal screening program is to be brought into action next spring. Colorectal cancer (commonly known as bowel or colon cancer) takes the lives of over 1,000 British Columbians a year, and the new program seeks to reduce that figure significantly, especially amongst the aging population.
[quote]The program comes on the heels of a pilot project called Colon Check, which screened 15,000 people over the last three years. [/quote]
The aim of the program is to try and catch signs such as pre-cancerous polyps or malignant tumours early on by employing a fecal immunochemical test, FIT, which can be completed in the privacy of one’s own home before sending the samples to a lab for analysis. Adding to the convenience of the test, neither diet nor medication changes are required of the patient. Family doctors will refer those between the ages of 50 and 74 with no symptoms to a screening test every two years. Those who have a history of the cancer in their family will be referred to their regional health authority for a screening colonoscopy. Each test costs approximately $35, but the cost will be covered by the government. The fully-funded program is set to start on April 1, 2013 on Vancouver island, with other regions following.
The program comes on the heels of a pilot project called Colon Check, which screened 15,000 people over the last three years. The results of the screenings were 45 cases of cancer and hundreds of pre-cancerous polyps.
Dr. Max Coppes, president of the BC Cancer Agency commented on the program being taken, “As a province, we are known for excellence in cancer control. Early detection through screening saves lives. The announcement today of a provincial colorectal cancer screening program is another important step forward for cancer care in BC. This new screening program will improve early detection of cancer and precancerous lesions, and as a direct result, decrease colorectal cancer mortality.”
Minister of Health, Margaret MacDiarmid, spoke on the subject, saying, “This new program recognizes that family physicians are key influencers for patients in deciding to participate in cancer screening programs and physicians are also well equipped to speak to their patients about risk factors and prevention.”
She also notes that there is no estimated cost for the project at present time: “We will be able to give a cost analysis retrospectively, but at this point it is not clear what it is going to be … It’s unusual for government to not to have an estimate … but what we’ve said here is we are going to fund the cost.”