NL colon cancer screening program launched
July 23, 2012
Through an annual investment of $3 million, the Provincial Government, in partnership with Eastern Health and Western Health, launched the Newfoundland and Labrador Colon Cancer Screening Program today (Monday, July 23) in Corner Brook. The screening program will be phased in over a three-year period with the first phase being implemented in western Newfoundland.
“Colon cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women and the second leading cause of cancer death in Newfoundland and Labrador, next to lung cancer,” said the Honourable Susan Sullivan, Minister of Health and Community Services. “The goal of the Newfoundland and Labrador Colon Cancer Screening Program is to reduce provincial mortality rates through the early detection of cancer in people who carry the disease, but show no symptoms. Our government has invested over $140 million in cancer treatment and prevention since 2004, and we will continue to work aggressively to enhance cancer care in the province and to improve quality in our health care system through investments in equipment and services for prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”
The Newfoundland and Labrador Colon Cancer Screening Program is led by Eastern Health, which administers the provincial Cancer Care Program. The target age group for the new program is men and women aged 50 to 74 who are considered at average risk for colon cancer.
“We know that detecting cancer early remains the best strategy for improving survival rates and enhancing the quality of life for those dealing with cancer,” said Vickie Kaminski, President and CEO, Eastern Health, who attended today’s announcement. “Participation in the screening program is an easy, painless and risk-free means of detecting colon cancer earlier and treating it more successfully. We look forward to adding this vital component to our Cancer Care Program, as we believe it will play a significant role in reducing deaths from this disease.”
During the coming weeks, Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kits will be made available to men and women in the targeted age group in western Newfoundland. The FIT is more advanced and more sensitive than other available tests and is considered a very effective method for screening those at average risk for colon cancer. The kits will allow participants to collect samples in the privacy of their own homes and forward them to a central biochemistry laboratory at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in St. John’s for analysis.
Participants whose tests show abnormal (positive) results will be contacted by the Colon Cancer Screening Program for follow-up care, which may include a diagnostic test such as a colonoscopy. Results from the diagnostic test will be sent to the screening program and the participants’ family physician.
Colon cancer screening for the general population will potentially increase the demand for colonoscopies and other endoscopy services. In consultation with the Provincial Endoscopy Wait Time Advisory Committee and the regional health authorities, it was determined that Western Memorial Hospital in Corner Brook is currently best-positioned to handle the anticipated volume of follow-up treatment in the first phase of the screening program. The screening program will expand throughout the remainder of the province, as each region implements the required capacity for widespread screening.
“Western Health is pleased to play a key role in the Newfoundland and Labrador Colon Cancer Screening Program”, said Dr. Susan Gillam, CEO, Western Health. “With the high prevalence in colon cancer in our population, we have all witnessed the devastating effects of this type of cancer on our clients and their families. We are looking forward to supporting early intervention in an effort to improve outcomes for the people that we serve.”
Participation in the Newfoundland and Labrador Colon Cancer Screening program is voluntary. Residents of western Newfoundland who fall within the target group are strongly encouraged to take a proactive approach to their health and participate in the program by calling toll-free at 1-855-614-0144.
Further information on the program will be made available through promotional materials and activities including advertising through the internet, newspapers, radio, direct mail, and community partners. Additional information can also be found at www.easternhealth.ca