The P.E.I. government is hailing the success of its home screening program for colorectal cancer.
More than 10,000 Islanders have been tested since the program debuted in 2011.
At 26 per cent over the national average, Prince Edward Island has the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the country, and Island men are more likely to die from this cancer than other Canadians with the disease.
The government says lives have been saved thanks to early detection.
Two years ago Donna Gallant received a letter from Health PEI, as did every Islander between the ages of 50 and 74, offering to send her a home colorectal cancer screening kit.
As a nurse of more than 30 years, Gallant felt it her duty to take part.
“I sent it in, never thinking anything would come back,” she said.
But Gallant's results came back abnormal. After a difficult six months waiting for a colonoscopy for confirmation, Gallant began a painful year of cancer treatment that included chemotherapy, radiation therapy and multiple surgeries.
“I thought, here I am at retirement age and I want to be with my family and enjoy life,” she said.
Gallant has now been declared cancer-free. She credits the screening program.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer on P.E.I. — with the second highest mortality rate for women in the country. The Canadian Cancer Society said early detection is the key to successful treatment.
Marla Delaney, with Health PEI, said through this program more than 100 other cases have been detected in the early stages.
“I get really excited because I feel it’s been really successful in the matter of two years. When it’s something that usually, when you're looking at cancer trends, you’re looking at a 10-year trend to see what the difference has been. Every time I see a report some back where a person had an advanced adenoma removed, I think that person may never have to hear, ‘[You] have cancer,’” she said.
Gallant’s advice to other Islanders from 50 to 74.
“Do it, save your friends and family. I’ve been telling all of my friends and family.
For all its success, Health PEI said it is only reaching 15 per cent of people living on P.E.I. in the target demographic.
The department would like to quadruple that number so even more Islanders can tell success stories like Gallant’s.