By Sara Chow
THUNDER BAY – HEALTH – Tim Waite, 60, is your everyday normal guy living his life in Thunder Bay. He’s a husband, father, grandfather, business man, neighbour and world traveler – and he intends to stay healthy for all of these reasons.
“I advocate for my health because it is important to me to be healthy for myself, my family and the people who depend on me,” says Waite, whose father passed away from colon cancer at the age of 56. “By the time my father was diagnosed with his cancer, it had already spread to his liver and there wasn’t anything they could do. This is part of what motivates me to get screened regularly, so if there is something wrong they catch it early.”
Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men in Ontario. However, when colon cancer is caught early, 9 out of 10 people with it can be cured. Despite this, many men still aren’t getting screened for cancer.
“For men, I think there is some apprehension to get screened because of the fear of the unknown. You’re not sure what’s going to happen, you don’t know what the tests are like if you’ve never done them before,” explains Waite. “I have had many colonoscopies because I have a family history of colon cancer, and I can tell you that it’s not that bad to get screened. It gives me peace of mind.”
In Ontario there are two primary colon cancer screening streams:
- Average risk: Men and women between 50 to 74 years of age with no first-degree family history of colon cancer (i.e. parent, sibling or child) should complete a take-home ColonCancerCheck fecal occult blood test (FOBt) kit every 2 years.
- High risk: Men and women who have a first-degree family history of colon cancer should be screened with a colonoscopy beginning at age 50 or 10 years earlier than the age at which their family member was diagnosed. For example, if your father was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 56, then you should have a colonoscopy at age 46.
Cancer screening is for healthy individuals, like Waite. “Don’t hesitate and wait for a problem before you make screening a health priority,” he says. “I have seen what happens when you wait, and the outcome can be unfortunate. If you are feeling apprehensive, do it for the sake of yourself, and your family. Get it done, it’s worth it.”
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Make colon cancer screening your priority and talk to your health care provider about getting screened. You can get your FOBT kit from your health care provider. If you don’t have a health care provider, you can get a kit by calling Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213 or the Screen for Life Coach at 1-800-461-7031.
To find out more about colorectal cancer screening, visit ColonCancerCheck.ca or watch a short video that explains FOBT kits and colonoscopies at tbrhsc.net/goodlife.