More Nova Scotians will have access to a home screening kit for colon cancer as the Colon Cancer Prevention Program expands to Annapolis Valley Health. 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, South West Health and Colchester East Hants Health Authority. By next spring, it is expected to be available provincewide. MLA Gary Ramey, on behalf of Health Minister Maureen MacDonald, officially launched the program’s expansion in Kentville today, July 12. “Government is committed to making health care better for Nova Scotians. An important part of this is providing access to screening for colon cancer. I am pleased to see the Colon Cancer Prevention Program expand to the Annapolis Valley Health area, and that it is now available in six district health authorities in the province,” said Mr. Ramey. “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.” This week, people between the ages of 50 and 74 who live in the Annapolis Valley Health 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 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.” Although in its early stages and not yet available throughout the province, the program is already making a difference. “The screening program has identified a number of individuals with early cancers and pre-cancers,” said Dr. Badley. “Without screening, these likely would not be found until a much later stage when treatment is far less effective.” Dr. Don Clark, a colonoscopist with Annapolis Valley Health, 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. Clark. “On average, about 75 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, go 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.