A new provincial colon cancer screening program will be phased in over the next three years at a cost of $3 million per year, beginning in western Newfoundland, the government announced today.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the province, said Health and Community Services Minister Susan Sullivan in a news release.
“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,” she said.
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.
Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kits will be made available to residents of western Newfoundland who fall within the target age group, states the release.
The kit allows people to gather samples in their own home.
The samples will then be sent to a biochemistry laboratory at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in St. John’s.
Tests returning a positive result will be followed up with additional testing, possibly to include a colonoscopy, states the release.
Eastern Health president and CEO Vickie Kaminski said early detection is currently the best strategy for improving cancer patient survival rates, while urging people to participate in the program.
“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,” she said.
There could be a potential increase in the demand for colonoscopies as a result of the screening program, states the government.
It was determined that Western Memorial Hospital in Corner Brook was best prepared for the potential increase in follow-up treatment during the first phase of the program.
The screening program will be expanded across the province as each region improves its capacity for widespread screening.
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.