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New screening clinics for colorectal cancer

By Sharon Gray

For almost a decade, the Colorectal Cancer Interdisciplinary Health Research Team has been conducting colorectal cancer studies to advance the existing knowledge on the nature, effect and control of colorectal cancer.

That research has now moved into the clinical area. Recently, letters were sent to 140 colorectal cancer patients in Newfoundland and Labrador inviting them to visit new screening clinics to identify families that may be at high risk of colorectal cancer. The objective is to target high-risk families through these clinics and begin the process of screening family members.

There are two clinics: one in St. John’s located in new premises at the Agnes Cowan Hostel, and one in Grand-Falls Windsor at 7 Pinsent Dr. A third clinic will open in Corner Brook in about a month.

Patients are identified through the Provincial Colorectal Cancer Registry, which was developed as part of the work of the team. This research team’s work is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“We’ve contacted patients as far back as 2008, and asked them to call us,” said Dr. Elizabeth Dicks, managing director for the Colorectal Cancer Interdisciplinary Health Research Team, which consists of health researchers throughout the provinces of Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“This is the first time we have staff who are research staff as well as clinical staff. The funds for these new clinics are from our research funds.”

Dr. Dicks said these clinics are possible because people of the province participated in colorectal cancer research over the last 10 years.

“These clinics are focusing not just on the person with colon cancer but casting a wider net to include the whole family. We know there are many reasons why family members don’t get screened and now we will be taking out barriers such as a patient not having a family doctor, and facilitating the screening. We will be the gatekeepers to ensure people get screened.”

The 140 letters sent out so far are only the beginning.

“We are doing it in baby steps,” said Dr. Dicks. “We have a huge database of patients who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and that will be up and running in December. I’m really excited about it; this is really moving forward and it’s a validation for the work we’ve done.”

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in Canada, and the rates of colorectal cancer in this province are 27 per cent higher than the national average.