Winnipeg man diagnosed with cancer 3 times believes in screening
When Len Bueckert first retired in 2006, he thought he had escaped the odds.
Both his mother and brother had been diagnosed with colon cancer in their 40s. He was in his 60s and cancer free.
"I'd dodged a bullet for 20 years," said Bueckert.
But, soon Bueckert got the news too. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007. Shortly after that, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Now, he's still in treatment for prostate cancer.
"Time desensitizes you to what really you were feeling at the time," said Bueckert. "Yeah, you are worried."
Bueckert is just one of the thousands of Manitobans battling cancer.
It's estimated 6,500 people in Manitoba were diagnosed with cancer last year alone.
But, the hope is with screening and research, survival rates will continue to increase.
"One of the big good news stories in the cancer world is the dramatic increase in cancer survival rates," said Erin Crawford, Director of Public Issues with the Canadian Cancer Society's Manitoba Division.
"Pick any set of years. Over the last 50 years, over the last 25 years,10 years. Every year we are making huge strides in survival rates in various types of cancer."
Numbers from the Canadian Cancer Society show in the 1940s the survival rate was 25 per cent. Now, that number is 63 per cent.
Crawford credits better prevention, more effective treatment, screening programs and research.
"Screening makes a huge difference," said Crawford. "One of the big lessons over the last 50 years in the cancer world is the importance of early detection and treatment. Because the earlier you can find cancer, the less invasive it typically is, [and] the easier it typically is to treat."
After years of living with various different cancers, Bueckert is currently on hormone treatment to treat prostate cancer.
"I guess the next stage now is to determine whether I'm going to take one of the other super drugs, or whether I'm going to take chemotherapy," said Bueckert, who has an appointment with his doctor set for May to see some of his latest test results.
Bueckert hopes going forward others will continue to educate themselves and not be afraid to talk about cancer.
"It doesn't matter whether it's prostate cancer, or colon cancer, [or getting] mammograms," said Bueckert. "You should be testing. You should be aware of what you need to do."
One thing is certain, Bueckert has not let cancer stop him from living his life with his wife Marie, children and grandchildren.
"Cancer is a word," said Bueckert. "A disease, it's a word and if you are going to be fearful of it then my goodness, I think you have lost."
"Marie gave me a quote early on, and that was 'If you don't like something change it. If you can't change it, then change the way you think about it.'"
Screening guidelines according to the Canadian Cancer Society:
- Men and women age 50 and over should have a stool test (guaiac-based fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test) at least every two years
- If the stool test comes back positive, a follow-up test should include a colonoscopy or double contrast barium enema (an x-ray of the large intestine) or flexible sigmoidoscopy
- If you are 40 to 49 speak with your family doctor about your risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography
- If you are 50 to 69, have a mammogram every two years
- If you are 70 or older, discuss with your family doctor about whether mammograms are right for you
- If you are a woman and sexually active, start having regular pap tests every one to three years
- Even if you had the HPV vaccine you still need regular pap tests
- If you stop having sex you should still continue to have pap tests
- For women who have had a hysterectomy, you may still need the pap test
With files from Duk Han Lee