Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New screening will fight cancer

Tests for Lynch syndrome approved

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WHEN Megan Tucker’s father died of liver cancer in 2007, little did she know she also had a cancer time bomb ticking inside her.

Tucker, and others diagnosed with colon cancer who are under the age of 70, will now be tested in Manitoba to see if they have Lynch syndrome, an inherited colorectal cancer syndrome that also increases the chances of getting other cancers, including uterine.

Tucker, now 36, was treated for stage-three colon cancer in 2011, a few years after her father died following his 12-year fight against various cancers.

"I was lucky, because that’s when the Lynch possibility was discovered," Tucker said on Monday.

While Tucker said she was diagnosed after testing in Ontario — following a written plea to CancerCare Manitoba and the provincial government that the testing be covered by Manitoba Health — she’s glad Manitobans will now be tested here.

"Being diagnosed was very empowering," she said.

"That’s good because the only care for Lynch syndrome is targeted surveillance and maintenance."

Health Minister Erin Selby announced all Manitobans 70 years and under who have had colorectal-cancer surgery will receive testing for Lynch syndrome. About 900 to 1,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer every year, with about half that number 70 and younger.

Selby said about five per cent of people diagnosed with colon cancer also have Lynch syndrome, and once the diagnosis is confirmed, they can be monitored for the other types of cancers they are at a higher risk of getting.

Selby said once the diagnosis is made, steps can be taken to allow immediate family members to also be tested so they, too, can be watched for cancer.

"Colorectal cancer is the secondleading cause of cancer death in Manitoba," she said.

"With early detection, survival rates are very high."

Dr. Sri Navaratnam, chief executive officer of CancerCare Manitoba, said the biggest benefit of the testing is the ongoing surveillance will catch cancer in the early stages.

"We can detect the cancer earlier so it doesn’t become life-threatening," she said.

Dr. Piotr Czaykowski, an oncology doctor, said up until now, very few Manitobans were tested for Lynch syndrome because, with only five per cent of people with colon cancer diagnosed with the disorder, it was hard to get medical coverage to send them out of province.

"We tried, but it was often very difficult," Czaykowski said.

Annitta Stenning, president and CEO of the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, said the screening equipment and initial training cost about $75,000 and half of it was covered by the annual Kick Butt Walk/Run for Colorectal Cancer.

Sid Chapnick, the fundraiser’s organizer, said he’s thrilled to have helped to start the new screening.

"I’m very happy," Chapnick said.

"And the 250 walkers last year can be proud, too."

 

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2014 A2

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