Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the Man Cave: Colon cancer and screening

Screenshot of BC Cancer Agency website

Generally speaking, survival rates for colon cancer are better the earlier the cancer is diagnosed. Screening is key to early detection and the BC Cancer Agency’s Cancer Screening site is a great resource for information about screening.

Did you know that March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Canada?

It is estimated that about 50% of colon cancers could have been be prevented with lifestyle changes and early intervention. I see these kinds of statistics quite frequently and as much as they come from current scientific research, it is very important to bear in mind that only 50% of these cancers can be avoided. Not 100%. So it’s important not to impart the kind of thinking that makes one feel guilty or think “if only.” If you develop cancer, it is not your fault! No one can tell how an individual’s cells will react.

So, as I think about some prevention tips for National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, I remind you to take these messages as intended: to be helpful and to try and give folks a fighting chance, not to instill fear or guilt.

What can we do to look after our colons? The BC Cancer Agency has some excellent information.

Get screened.

Colon cancer is one of those diseases that can be picked up early and have treatment started before it gets out of hand. Generally speaking, survival rates are better the earlier the cancer is diagnosed.

There are new tests available, such as the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) test, which your doctor can order. The FIT can be carried out every two years or so for individuals between 50 and 74 years of age. It’s an easier test to take than a colonoscopy and it’s from the comfort of your own bathroom. Family history of bowel cancer is a powerful reason to take the test.

Screening is the key to early detection. Discuss which screening option is best for you with your family doctor and visit the BC Cancer Agency for information about screening for colon cancer.

Keep track of your movements.

Changes in bowel movement such as blood in the toilet are always a good reason to visit your doctor. Chances are that it’s due to something less serious such as internal hemorrhoids, but don’t bury your head in the sand! Changes in bowel habit either accompanied or unaccompanied by abdominal pain are another good reason to see the doc.

Check in.

I can’t emphasize enough the need to let your family doctor know who you are every now and then! Get a health screening at least once a year once you are getting over 40. Arrange an appointment and discuss with your physician what different screening options might be appropriate for your age.

For the FIT, it’s a case of check your poo in the loo and take the sample back to the lab. Simple.

Other tests such as blood sugar, blood pressure, tests for prostate cancer and cholesterol screening can all be done quite easily. These can inform you what lifestyle changes you might make to improve your chances of a healthy, long life.

Lifestyle changes often require commitment, of course, but are much easier than going through chemotherapy or surgery.

There are no guarantees in life but a little friendly check-in with a health care provider and some reading accompanied by small changes in diet and activity might just help you dodge a bullet down the road, and will keep you feeling good in the here and now!

All the best.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Partnership with UNBC Wellness Centre highlights the health of young men

In March 2011, Northern Health and the UNBC Wellness Centre developed a partnership to provide screenings to students to check their blood pressure, sugars and cholesterol as well as a pre-screening for stress and depression. The event was an overwhelming success so we decided to do it again!

Northern Health and UNBC once again came together to offer the same event during November 2012, building off the momentum from the Movember campaign. The event was made possible through the partnership of the Northern Health men’s health team, the UNBC Wellness Center, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the BC Cancer Agency.

men's health screening

A total of 123 men came through the men’s health screening at UNBC. Mustaches were complimentary!

A total of 123 men were screened over the two day event. Many more came by the event for health information, games, and a free photo with complimentary mustaches. We were hoping for a good turnout and the students did not disappoint!

We want to thank UNBC for hosting the event, as well as our partner agencies for all their work in making these great two days possible. Let’s continue to spread the word about men’s health in our communities!

Visit men.northernhealth.ca for more information on men’s health and community events to support this initiative.

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling.

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Men’s health event and screening in McBride was a huge success!

McBride Pioneer Days

The NH team promoting men’s health. L-R: Brandon Grant, Mike Benusic, Sheila Anderson, Roxanne Coates and Susanna Gasser.

On June 17th, I was able to participate in a great event held during the McBride Pioneer Days Pancake Breakfast at the Elk’s Hall. I was there to promote men’s health, along with other Northern Health staff who conducted blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol checks for men who came in for breakfast. We also had an information booth with a variety of health resources for residents.

As with most of our events across the region, the men we saw really stepped up and took on the challenge to learn more about their health, with over 30 participants lining up to get checked. As I spoke with some of the folks at the Elk’s Hall, it reminded me of the importance of the work we are doing to raise the spotlight on men’s health. The men and women who came by shared stories about their own health issues and real-life examples that have showed them how important it is to reach men at all stages of life, but especially when they’re young.

The best part about my job is visiting all the communities in our vast region, speaking with people about what good health means to them, and what we can do as a community and health authority to raise awareness about health issues of men living in the north. The work continues, but with the help of our committed Northern Health staff and our community partners, we can make men’s health better for all that call the north home. Thanks to the great folks that helped make this event possible!

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling.

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