New province-wide colorectal screening program aims to save lives

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Albertans now have more protection against Alberta's second most deadly cancer, with the launch of a new screening program. The Alberta Colorectal Cancer Screening Program is a province-wide initiative that will focus on research, public education and more direct treatment for persons at risk of this type of cancer.

"Colorectal screening is an important healthy living practice and one that needs to be taken seriously," said Dave Hancock, Minister of Health and Wellness. "Early screening and diagnosis will spare hundreds of Albertans and their families from the tragedy of this disease. This government is committed to supporting programs and lifestyle choices that help Albertans stay healthy and this program is an important step towards a cancer-free future for this province."

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Although there is no single cause of colorectal cancer, men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 face a greater risk. Currently, less than 20 per cent of Albertans are screened for the disease. Of those who are tested and have a positive test result, only an estimated 21 per cent go on to receive the necessary follow-up. As part of the new program, Albertans in this age group will be encouraged to get tested and get appropriate diagnostic procedures where test results are positive. This can be done through a regular check-up with your doctor.

Dr. Heather Bryant, Alberta Cancer Board vice president, notes there are currently 1,400 new cases of colorectal cancer in Alberta each year and that it kills about 580 Albertans annually. "There is excellent evidence that we can reduce this death toll significantly in Alberta," says Bryant. "Even more exciting, we believe we can also reduce the number of Albertans diagnosed with colorectal cancer, by finding and removing polyps before they become malignant."

Funding for the colorectal screening program will be provided by Health and Wellness and the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund. The program has been developed collaboratively with the input of many professional health groups and will put into practice the recommendations made by groups such as the National Committee on Colorectal Cancer Screening and the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care. Similar screening programs were recently announced in Ontario and Manitoba.

Improving Alberta's health system is part of Premier Ed Stelmach's plan to improve Albertans' quality of life. Other priorities for the government are to: govern with integrity and transparency, manage growth pressures, build a stronger Alberta and provide safe and secure communities.

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