While NDP leader Adrian Dix was in Penticton this weekend to meet with supporters and have some fun riding in the Peachfest parade, he also had a serious message he wanted to deliver.
It’s an issue Dix said he has been raising everywhere he travels in the province, but is especially important to Penticton. In 2007, Penticton Regional Hospital was selected as one of three centres to participate in a colorectal cancer screening program. Now that the pilot phase is over, Dix is encouraging the province to extend it to a province-wide program, as Ontario already has.
“I have been putting pressure on the government for years to do this. Part of the response to that pressure was pilot programs, one of which is in Penticton, which in itself has been very successful,” he said. “It is time to act. The programs themselves here have been so successful and we want that to continue.”
Colorectal cancer, according to Dix, is the second leading cause of cancer death. But chances of survival from colorectal cancer can increase to 90 per cent when polyps, where the cancer develops, are found and removed before becoming dangerous tumours, or during the early stages of the disease. However, many don’t discover the cancer until it has progressed. Programs like the Penticton pilot saw home-testing kits sent out to about 30 per cent of at-risk groups.
“You would dramatically reduce the number of people dying from this cancer if that number were 60 or 70 per cent,” said Dix. “There was a report in Vernon recently, which is not that dissimilar to Penticton demographically, that shows that 43 per cent of people with colorectal cancer present with it in the emergency room.
“That means that they are not diagnosed with it until they show up in the emergency room with the complications from it. Then, it is frequently too late.”
The tests are inexpensive, Dix continued, and a province-wide program would pay for itself.
“At a time when there is pressure on public health spending, prevention is so much better a way,” he said. “These programs pay for themselves by not spending money later.”
Dix has a personal interest in seeing the screening program extended province-wide. His mother was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1997. She was very fortunate, Dix said to have had it detected early and is still active and healthy, having just retired at age 77.
“I hope the Penticton program becomes common place across the province. But until then, I am also encouraging British Columbians between the ages of 50-74, who are most at risk for colorectal cancer, and those with a family history, to connect with their primary care provider about getting screened. I know from personal experience that early detection works, saving lives and health care costs,” said Dix.
On this note, the NDP leader launched a public service campaign, including sharing his family’s experience, currently airing with the Canadian Cancer Society and Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.