More Nova Scotians will have access to a home screening kit for colon cancer as the Colon Cancer Prevention Program expands to the area served by the Colchester East Hants Health Authority. The expansion of the screening program is part of government’s efforts to make life better for families in every region of the province. The program is in place in South Shore Health, Cape Breton District Health Authority, Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority and South West Health. By next spring, it is expected to be available provincewide. MLA Lenore Zann, on behalf of Health Minister Maureen MacDonald, officially launched the program’s expansion in Truro today, May 31. “In line with government’s commitment to make health care better for Nova Scotians, I am pleased to see the Colon Cancer Prevention Program expand to the Colchester East Hants area,” said Ms. Zann. “This program is key to preventing colon cancer, the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Nova Scotia, and finding it early when it can be most successfully treated.” In June, people between the ages of 50 and 74 who live in the Colchester East Hants area, will begin receiving information on the program. A couple of weeks later, they will receive the home screening kit. Directions, in English and French, are included in the kit. “The response to the program from both the public and health providers has been very positive,” said Theresa Marie Underhill, chief operating officer, Cancer Care Nova Scotia. “Thirty per cent of those who have been invited so far have completed the test. This participation rate in the early years of a program is considered very good. However, we will be aiming much higher. We are evaluating every aspect of the program to fine tune it where necessary and to encourage as many people as possible to participate.” The home screening test is easy to use. It tests for small amounts of blood in the stool, which may be a sign of growths in the colon. “Colon cancer is a preventable cancer,” said Dr. Bernard Badley, medical director, Colon Cancer Prevention Program. “People often think that if there are no signs or symptoms of a problem, all must be ok. That is not necessarily the case with colon cancer. “I cannot stress enough the importance of people being regularly screened before there are any signs of disease. With screening, studies show that we can reduce the number of people who will die by up to one-third.” Dr. Martin Dzierzanowski, head of surgery for Colchester East Hants Health Authority, said screening for colon cancer is essential. “More often than not, there are no warning signs of colon cancer in the early stages when it is most treatable and most who get the disease have no family history of it,” said Dr. Dzierzanowski. “On average, about 47 people in our district are diagnosed with colon cancer each year. The prevention program will change this, but people need to participate.” The greatest risk factor for colon cancer is being older than 50. Nova Scotians, age 50 to 74, are encouraged to be tested regularly. For more details on colon cancer or the kits, got to www.cancercare.ns.ca/coloncancerprevention . Cancer Care Nova Scotia, a provincial program of the Department of Health, was created in 1998 to facilitate quality cancer prevention and care for all Nova Scotians.