06/07/2016 06:08 EDT | Updated 06/08/2017 05:12 EDT

Why Not Talk About Colon Cancer At The Dinner Table?


The medical community recently announced that colon cancer is on the rise for people under 50 and tumours are often diagnosed at a more advanced stage. This news opened a much needed conversation about the disease but, for the colon cancer community, it is also incredibly frustrating. We know what most people do not, that colon cancer is highly treatable and, if detected in the early stages, has a 90-per-cent recovery rate.

This is huge, yet, people continue to focus on the scare factor of the disease showing up at an earlier age or processed meats being a main contributor. This information is important but what is more important is that screening can prevent deaths and this is the conversation that we need to be having.

Health and wellness are common topics at the dinner table.

The Canadian Cancer Society recognizes colon cancer as the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers). It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men and the third leading cause of death from cancer in women in Canada. The disease is highly treatable if caught in the early phases but half of the diagnosis are found out too late.

However, colon cancer does not get the same attention as other cancers because we've been raised to not talk about this part of the body. Its function is necessary but, as our mothers have told us, its output is not considered "table talk." In order to see a real change in fighting this disease, we need to start talking about it.

Health and wellness are common topics at the dinner table. For example, how many times have you been at a dinner party where a guest is sharing their most recent cleanse diet? I would like to point out that most cleanses are actually cleaning your colon but I'm assuming this part of the conversation has been left out.

The point is, we need to stop dancing around a topic that makes us feel slightly uncomfortable and start having meaningful conversations that could potentially save lives. Forget what your mother told you about appropriate table talk because conversations about colon cancer and colonoscopies should be held at your dinner parties, family gatherings and anywhere in your life.

Now that we're on the topic of dinner party etiquette, one that may come up this week is the recommendation to move away from annual medical check-ups. The Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination concluded that "routine annual physical exam should be discarded." Alternatively, doctors should be creating "selective plans of health protection packages" appropriate to the health and needs of the patient's life stages.

This announcement sparks the conversation that Canadians need to take a more proactive role in their health. Discuss with your doctor what routine screenings you should be considering at your age and according to your lifestyle. Or consider at home testing options for a less invasive and more time conscious option, for more information visit:

In 2015, colon cancer took 9,300 Canadian lives but, given the available information around prevention and screening, there is no reason that this number cannot decrease in 2016. A simple conversation today, could save lives tomorrow and it's up to us to make this change.

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