N.S. woman urges using colon cancer screening kit
A Nova Scotia woman is urging people to use a screening kit for colorectal cancer and says the kits may have saved her life.
Dawn Whitehead, who lives in Hammonds Plains, said there's no history of colorectal cancer in her family and she wasn't exhibiting any symptoms when she decided to use the screening kit that had arrived in her mailbox late last year.
The results were positive — doctors found a cancerous polyp that they removed.
"I just learned yesterday that a polyp that had been removed and found to be cancerous was totally gone and all the tissue left behind was considered to be really clean," Whitehead told CBC News on Thursday.
"I have a new lease on life right now."
Whitehead said while the initial diagnosis came as a shock, she soon realized the test possibly saved her life.
"Without the screening process, who knows what might have happened," she said.
Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada where people between the ages of 50 and 74 get a colorectal cancer screening kit mailed to their homes.
The program, which started in 2009, went province-wide last year.
The kit requires a small stool sample to be mailed in for testing.
Dr. Bernard Badley, the medical director of the Colon Cancer Prevention Program for Cancer Care Nova Scotia, said so far, only about a third of the people who have received the kit have bothered to use and send samples in for analysis.
"The best rate anywhere in the world is about 50 per cent, between 50 and 60," he told CBC News.
"Fifty is what they achieve in the United Kingdom in their well-established screening program, so that sort of target would be probably the best we could hope for."
Whitehead received her test kit late last year, but didn't decide to use it until a few months ago.
She wants more Nova Scotians to take advantage of the potentially life saving program.
"I feel anybody who receives the kits should certainly take the samples and send it in as soon as they can," said Whitehead.
"If they've thrown the kit away, I would phone the Cancer Care people and get yourself another kit."