Every year in November, awareness and information is shared for gastrointestinal cancer. This to raise awareness and support for prevention, detection and treatment of gastrointestinal cancer and colorectal cancer.

According to the Stomach Cancer Foundation of Canada, it is estimated that 4,200 Canadians will be diagnosed with stomach cancer this year.

Dr. Brady Anderson is a Medical Oncologist with Cancer Care Manitoba in Brandon.

Dr. Anderson treats gastrointestinal cancer (which includes colon cancer) and thoracic malignancy (which is mostly lung cancer) as well as breast cancer. 

"The number of instances of colon cancer is rising a very small amount, but one of the trends that's a bit more concerning is actually the age of diagnosis is decreasing," he explains. "So, our historical belief that colon cancer is a disease of the elderly is getting less and less true. There are definitely some hereditary risks, so if there is a first-degree family member with the diagnosis of colorectal cancer then your risk is increased."

He says with this type of family history, where brother, sister, mom or dad are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, there is a greater risk, and a direct colonoscopy is the better screening test.

For average-risk Manitobans, Dr Anderson says the newer, more accurate screening test is performed on a stool sample and it looks for tumor DNA or malignant tissue rather than blood.  "Because blood can be caused by lots of non-cancerous issues as well," he adds.

He notes this new screening test has fewer false positives and therefore fewer colonoscopies need to be performed.

Maintaining a healthy weight and maintaining physical exercise (even though you're not losing weight) are both excellent ways to help reduce your risk of many of the cancers, including colorectal, gastrointestinal and breast cancers, as well as heart disease.

"Again, if you are noticing changes, tell somebody," says Dr. Anderson, "because changes in bowel habits, and new bleeding should be investigated, and the earlier colorectal cancer is detected, the less treatment you're going to require and the better the prognosis."

Also in November, Canadians come together to recognize and raise awareness of the challenges that come from a diagnosis of lung cancer. 

In 2020, it is estimated that 21,200 Canadians will die from lung cancer, making the disease the leading cause of cancer death for both sexes in Canada (25%). 

The 5-year net survival rate for lung cancer is significantly lower than other cancers, at only 19%. Part of this is due to inadequate screening options, which leads to many patients being diagnosed at later stages. This makes treatments less effective at being successful, significantly impacting cancer survival.

Please listen to more with Dr. Brady Anderson below as he shares more information on both colorectal and lung cancer.

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