An annual report from the Canadian Cancer Society found that about 1 in 2 colorectal cancers in Canada are diagnosed after they have spread to other parts of the body, despite most provinces have screening programs designed to catch the disease early or before it starts.

“This year the emphasis was on cancer incidence by stage and there was a focus on colorectal cancer screening,” said Fernanda Martins public policy coordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society in Yellowknife.

“The report showed that, which was kind of a surprise, that fifty percent of colorectal cancers in Canada have been diagnosed after they’ve spread, even though there are screening programs throughout the country. So that is a concern because colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death and if it is diagnosed early, we have a really high survival rate of ninety per cent,” Martins said.

‘Organized colorectal cancer screening is still fairly new in many provinces, and it is still being implemented in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Quebec,’ the report states.

Part of the problem is that people aren’t getting screened as much as they should be, said Martins.

In the Northwest Territories, the participation rate is at about twenty per cent, which falls short of the organizations sixty per cent target she said.

“This has been a concern in the territory, the low participation rate of colorectal screening here in the territory is quite a bit lower than the rest of the country, and the government has been putting a lot of effort into spreading the word about the availability of colorectal screening and taking out some of the mysteries involved with the screening and some of the fears about the screening,” said Martins.

Colorectal cancer is found in the early stage 31 per cent of the time. 18 per cent of cases are detected at stage 2, 36 per cent at stage 3, and 13 per cent at stage 4.

“So what that means is most of the cancers were being detected at a later stage, at stage 3, whereas if more people had been getting screened for colorectal cancer, it would have been detected earlier with a higher opportunity to treat the disease,” said Martins.

The screening test is available through all community health centres and primary care centres in Yellowknife.