Inuvik health fair promotes colon cancer screening

In 2013 and 2014, the screening rate for a FIT screening test in the NWT was 25 per cent, compared to the national goal percentage of 60 per cent.

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The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority hosted Inuvik’s fourth annual Community Healthy Living Fair at the Midnight Sun Complex on Feb. 21, with a special focus on promoting colorectal cancer screening for those aged 50 years and older.

Dr. Matt Quinn, a local family doctor and regional public health officer, had set up an information booth on colorectal cancer screening, where he emphasized to visitors the importance of getting checked.

“Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer in the NWT. It’s the second most common cause for cancer in males, accounting for roughly 21 per cent,” Quinn said. “It’s also the second-most common cause in females, accounting for around 18 per cent.”

The Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) screening procedure, according to Quinn, looks at a patient’s stool sample to check for any blood that’s not easily visible. All men and women aged 50 to 74 are advised to complete a FIT test every one to two years, which is available at community health centres.

“It’s not blood you’ll be able to see with your eyes, so it’s checking for blood that you’re not able to see. That’s why it’s important to get checked,” he said.

Dr. Matt Quinn, a local family doctor and regional public health officer, stands inside of a blow-up colon infected with cancer at the Midnight Sun Complex on Feb. 21. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo
Dr. Matt Quinn, a local family doctor and regional public health officer, stands inside of a blow-up colon infected with cancer at the Midnight Sun Complex on Feb. 21. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo

According to GNWT health report from 2013 and 2014, the screening rate for a FIT test in the NWT was 25 per cent, compared to the national goal percentage of 60 per cent. In Inuvik, the participation rate for a FIT test was 16 per cent in 2016.

“We’re well below the national goal for colon cancer screening. It’s a simple test that everyone can do at home,” he said. “There’s no reason that anyone who’s eligible for screening shouldn’t be able to do it.”

He added that he believes the reason why the numbers are so low is that there’s a lack of awareness in the NWT in terms of understanding the importance of screening for colon cancer.

“I think having really good awareness across the entire Territories so that everyone aged 50 and over who is eligible for colon cancer screening knows that they’re eligible for it, and understands that it’s a very easy, simple test to do,” he said. “It does prevent cases of colon cancer and can help decrease mortality.”

Through upcoming cancer awareness videos and more community health fairs hosted throughout the region, Quinn said that he hopes that NWT residents realize the importance of getting checked.

“I think everything we can do to raise awareness and promote disease prevention is important,” he said. “These community fairs have been well-received in the past, so I think they’re a great avenue to raise awareness around cancer and all the diseases that we try and prevent.”

In addition to Quinn’s colon cancer screening awareness booth, topics such as preventable diseases, child development, house fire prevention, and dental hygiene also had booths set up around the fair.

An off-ice curling tournament for Inuvik’s Elder Day program was also hosted, with prizes handed out to both teams regardless if they finished first or second.

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