SAINT JOHN (GNB) – The provincial government is investing $1 million to expand screening for colon cancer across the province.

“Strengthening the delivery and accessibility of health care is important to the quality of life of New Brunswickers,” said Premier Brian Gallant. “Cancer screening saves lives, and by improving access to it we will see earlier detection and improved survival rates.”

In New Brunswick, colon cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-most common cause of all cancer deaths.

“New Brunswickers have been responding to our letters of invitation at a much higher rate than we anticipated,” said Dr. Eshwar Kumar, medical director of the New Brunswick Colon Cancer Screening Program. “The support and collaboration from all the staff and physicians in the regional health authorities has been very gratifying. The positive impact that this program will have on the health of our population is huge.”

The screening process for colon cancer is as follows:

Average-risk New Brunswickers, meaning those with no family or personal colon cancer history, between the ages of 50 and 74 are invited to participate in the program. Individuals can request a simple at-home test by answering a short eligibility questionnaire. Access to the whole cancer screening process is co-ordinated by the New Brunswick Cancer Network in co-operation with regional hospitals.

“The goal of organized screening is to discover cancer at an early stage in asymptomatic people because early detection saves lives. It is that simple,” said Anne McTiernan-Gamble, executive director of the Canadian Cancer Society New Brunswick. “New Brunswick’s colorectal screening program is a critical move forward for cancer services in this province. Participation in the program will absolutely help ensure that many deaths are prevented.”

The program began in November 2014 in Saint John, St. Stephen and Sussex and expanded to Edmundston and Campbellton in September 2015. In fall 2016, it expanded to the Moncton area. The program is now being expanded to Fredericton, Bathurst and Miramichi. It is expected to be implemented provincewide by 2019.

More information about cancer prevention and screening can be found on the Department of Health website.