Foster pushes for cancer screening program

Vernon-Monashee MLA responds to Vernon Jubilee Hospital's high rate of ER patients with colorectal cancer

An extremely high rate of undiagnosed cases of colorectal cancer may require a provincial response, according to Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.

A study indicates that of 75 patients requiring colorectal cancer treatment between April 2009 and March 2010, 43 per cent went to Vernon Jubilee Hospital on an emergency basis for bowel obstruction, hemorrhages and perforations. They didn’t know they had cancer until visiting the emergency room.

The study by Vernon Dr. Hamish Hwang suggested the situation may be due to a lack of a provincial screening program, and Foster believes that  is something that should be considered as a way of alleviating pain among patients and reducing deaths.

“We want to keep people out of the hospital and if we can do that through a program, we should look at it,” he said.

Besides benefitting patients, Foster anticipates early diagnosis of colorectal cancer will ease pressure on hospitals that are overcrowded.

“If people get screening and don’t end up in emergency in pain, there’s a difference in the length of hospital stay,” he said. “Keeping people out of hospital is the only way to keep ahead of (health care) costs.”

However, while there is no provincial screening program, Foster says residents can access testing on their own (for a fee).

“People need to take some responsibility,” he said.

Adrian Dix, NDP leader, has launched a campaign urging British Columbians to get checked for colorectal cancer,

“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Canada, and disproportionately affects people between 50 and 74,” he said in a release.

“But chances of survival can increase to 90 per cent when polyps, where the cancer develops, are found and removed before they become dangerous tumors, or during the early stages of the disease.”

Dix, whose mother survived colorectal cancer, is pushing for B.C. to initiate a provincewide screening program.

“According to recent data, only 37 per cent of people between 50 and 74 seek out preventative screening for colorectal cancer in B.C.,” he said.

In B.C., about 3,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and close to 1,100 will die from the disease.