Cancer survivor promotes early detection

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Doug Bridges just couldn’t be bothered taking part in simple cancer screening that begins at home.

Doug Bridges of Charlottetown speaks from his own fortunate personal experience in promoting the benefits of early detection of colon cancer.

Each year since turning 50, the now 55-year-old Charlottetown man would go to his family doctor for an annual physical.

Year after year, the doctor would send Bridges out the door after the exam with the FIT kit urging him to collect a stool sample for colorectal cancer screening.

“And I always said “I’m going to. I will, I will. And I didn’t,’’ says Bridges.

His reasons for not doing so — stupidity, laziness and the “ick factor’’ — seem petty today.

The fall-out from continually snubbing the FIT kit could have been quite severe, even deadly, if not for some good fortune. He certainly had cause to think about cancer.

“I have quite a history of cancer in my family,’’ he says.

“My mother is a breast cancer survivor — 12 years now. We lost my brother to lung cancer a year and a half ago.’’

Bridges ended up having a colonoscopy after going to the doctor over a minor bowel issue. Cancer was detected in the early stage.

He “dodged a bullet’’ and was “one of the lucky ones’’, according to his family doctor. His cancer was very small and very low grade. His doctor told Bridges that he could have walked around with the cancer for years before it caused him any problems.

Bridges required only minimally invasive surgery, resulting in a mere 24-hour hospital stay and a return to work at Metro Credit Union in just two weeks.

“I’m a lucky guy,’’ he says.

“I’m certainly a walking advocate for the benefits of early detection. If your doctor gives you the FIT kit, for goodness sake take it in. It’s a cliché but of course it could save your life.’’

Lori Barker, executive director with the Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. Division, says screening and early detection of colorectal cancer is proven to reduce the mortality rate because pre-cancerous growth can be detected and removed before they become cancer.

She says the FIT kit is a safe and simple place to start. The Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is used to detect blood that may be in your stool but not seen by the common eye. If blood is found, then further consult with a doctor is needed to determine what procedures (such as a colonoscopy) are needed.

“It is a very easy screening tool that you use at home,’’ says Barker.

Bridges thinks “almost every day’’ how seriously the cancer could have advanced if he didn’t have the disease detected at an early stage in part through dumb luck.

So he is telling his story in hopes of encouraging people to get screened for colon cancer, a disease that claims the lives of about 25 men and 25 women in P.E.I. each year.

“I think about how many people are walking around now with colon cancer in the very early stages but they don’t know about it and of course by the time they find out it could very well be too late,’’ he said.

“I do know of people who have heard of my situation and virtually almost dropped everything and taken in the Fit kit.’’

Fit kits are available by contacting the P.E.I. Colorectal Cancer Screening Program at 1-888-561-2233.

Organizations: Metro Credit Union, Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I.

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