Could Junk Mail Save Your Life?

Could Junk Mail Save Your Life?

Every morning I wake up, roll over to check my smartphone and find, on average, 22 new emails. I click on the mailbox icon with groggy enthusiasm imagining that 22 of my closest friends have taken the time to write me a letter while I slumber.  My optimism is soon squashed by the reality that the majority are from big box stores reminding me of their not-so-rare 40% off sale, a few phishing folks claiming to be PayPal, Apple or the Canadian Revenue Agency and the occasional borderline-inappropriate joke from my dad.

The same pattern holds true about a trip to our mailboxes to see what Canada Post has in store for us at the end of the day. 80% looks like junk mail, some solicitations for a donations, hooray another home lottery, and a few other pieces that might look a little more legitimate, but our skeptical minds can never be too sure.

One sunny June day in 2014, Murray Harrison of Notre Dame de Lourdes got home from work and was sorting his mail, tossing most of it into a pile for the trash and setting aside some bills to look at later. A large envelope addressed to him from ColonCheck caught his attention, pausing while he contemplated which pile it should go into. Murray opened the large envelope which contained a home screening test and some information about screening for colon cancer. Though he didn’t know it at the time, it turned out to be the most life-altering piece of mail he had ever received.  The healthy 50 year old had no symptoms of colon cancer, was an active husband and father just living life.  “At first I thought about putting it in the garbage, but I knew my wife (a nurse)  would shoot me if she finds out. I’m so glad I didn’t throw it out, it saved my life.”

A few weeks after mailing the test back, Murray got a call from ColonCheck to say his test result was abnormal and that he was scheduled for a follow-up colonoscopy. When he found out he had colon cancer the some fear was alleviated after he learned that the cancer was in its earliest stage.

According to Dr. Ross Stimpson, medical lead of CancerCare Manitoba’s ColonCheck program,”when colon cancer is detected in the earliest stage there is over a 90% chance of survival, and people don’t tend to have symptoms of the disease in the early stages.” This is why screening is so important.

Murray underwent a series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and surgery in 2015.  He is doing well now and is a vocal ambassador for colon cancer screening in Manitoba, both of which we are grateful for.  “I’ve told everybody and anybody I’ve talked to that when ColonCheck sends you the test in the mail: do not throw it in the garbage!  I’m grateful for that split second decision I made, it saved my life.”

ColonCheck mails home screening tests to Manitobans between 50-74 years of age.  Regular screening can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps before they turn into cancer and it can help find cancers early, like in Murray’s case, when treatment is most effective.

If you’ve received a test in the mail thought is was junk mail, click this link and a replacement test will be mailed to you at no charge.


Resolve to #GetCheckedMB in 2017

Share this image on social media to let your friends know you’re committed to your health.

A few days before Christmas I received an envelope in the mail with the CancerCare Manitoba CervixCheck logo on it – it was a reminder that I was due for a Pap test. How embarrassing – I work here, and they still had to remind me to book my appointment!

I also spent a few days with my parents in the last week and I challenged them to complete the ColonCheck home screening tests they received in the mail before the end of the year. They accepted the challenge.

Tomorrow as the clock strikes midnight, we welcome a brand new year. As you’re thinking about the goals and resolutions you’ll be setting out to accomplish in 2017, be sure to add: GetChecked.

Getting checked for colon, breast and cervical cancer is free for Manitobans. It helps find cancer early, when it’s most treatable, and often before it has even developed into cancer, which, in turn, gives you the opportunity to continue checking off all your other goals and resolutions, for many New Years to come.

And I’ve booked my Pap test, which means I’m entitled to the satisfaction of crossing that task off my list before the ball even drops!

For more information or to request your test with BreastCheck, CervixCheck or ColonCheck, please visit or call 1-855-95-CHECK.

Three tips for talking to your loved ones about cancer screening this holiday


The holidays are a time when we inevitably have an influx of gatherings with friends and family. We spend time, share meals and huddle together for warmth. We often find ourselves reflecting on our experiences and the events of the year past, and looking ahead to the brand new year around the corner.

While you’re together with the ones you value most, check-in to see if they’ve been on top of getting checked.

CancerCare Manitoba offers screening for breast, cervix and colon cancer. And while it might feel awkward to discuss, these are important tests that should be part of our regular health routines, just like going to the dentist.

It is especially important to screen for these three cancers, because they are common in Manitoba, and in their early stages, they have no symptoms. Screening is for people who feel well – so that if anything is detected, it can be treated early, when treatment can be most effective – so you can continue doing what you live for together!

Here are three suggestions on talking about cancer screening with your loved ones:

Talk about yourself

Demonstrate that it’s a topic you feel comfortable discussing as friends or family by mentioning your experience with cancer screening. You could say, “I just got my ColonCheck test in the mail – I guess it really has been two years since the last time I did it!”

ColonCheck offers an at-home screening test for Manitobans (men and women) age 50 – 74. Colon cancer is the second most common cancer for men and third most common for women in Manitoba. It is up to 90% curable if detected early through screening! You can request a test on our website, through your doctor, or by calling 1-855-95-CHECK.

Employ the buddy system

If a mammogram or Pap test are on your list of health to-do’s this year, why not make the commitment to not only yourself, but also to a friend, sister or cousin. There is strength in numbers, after all. At BreastCheck in Winnipeg we often see ladies come together as a small group and then go for coffee or lunch afterwards on Sherbrook St. – an excuse to get together and do something good for your health!

BreastCheck recommends  a mammogram every two years for most women age 50 – 74. Call 1-855-95-CHECK to book your appointment, or visit our website to see when our mobile screening team will be in your community.

CervixCheck recommends a Pap test every three years for anyone with a cervix age 21-69 who has ever been sexually active. To find a Pap test clinic near you, you can input your postal code on our website here.

Share this blog post with someone you love to remind them!

If you’re not comfortable bringing it up face-to-face, you can always copy and paste the URL to this blog post and share it in an email to a loved one saying, “Just sending a quick reminder your way!” Or you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tag someone in one of our posts.

Nervous about Pap tests? CervixCheck can help.


This month, CervixCheck is dedicated to bringing awareness to cervical cancer screening, and decreasing the stigma of the HPV – the virus that causes cervical cancer.

At CervixCheck we work to educate Manitoba women about the causes of cervical cancer and the importance of screening through regular Pap testing, as well as educate health care providers about best practices in cervical cancer screening.

One clinic in Winnipeg we have worked with is Hope Centre Health Care, where LeAnn Friesen is the clinic coordinator.

In her role, she’s become aware of many reasons that prevent women from booking a Pap test – even though it is a quick, simple test, and it can save your life – and she works with clinic staff to help women overcome any discomfort, confusion or fear they may have in order to help them get screened for cervical cancer.

“It’s an intimate exam, and sometimes women aren’t totally comfortable for a number of reasons,” LeAnn says. “Maybe they are not comfortable having a male doctor do the test, or maybe it’s a language barrier or knowledge barrier, so they put it off.

“We also know that many women have gone through abuse or sexual assault,” LeAnn says, acknowledging that for those women, the test can be especially intimidating.

“There are many clinics that offer Pap testing, and there are lots of resources out there to help,” LeAnn says. “At our clinic we can take as much time as you want, or we can get you out of here as fast as you want. We’ve done it where a second nurse is in the room to hold the woman’s hand or offer comfort. We also have nurses here who work with the sexual assault program in Winnipeg, so they have that experience as well, so we can help out in a lot of different circumstances.”

CervixCheck recommends all women age 21-69 who have ever been sexually active be screened with a Pap test every three years. The Pap test detects abnormal changes to the cells on the cervix, caused by the HPV virus, which can lead to cancer – but can be addressed and treated if detected early, through regular Pap tests.

CervixCheck also works to help women find Pap clinics – you can click here to visit our website, enter your postal code, and see where in your community you can go for a Pap test, including information about the availability of female health care providers, languages spoken by health care providers at each clinic and whether the clinics are wheelchair accessible.

HPV: As common as the common cold


October is cervical cancer awareness month, and at CervixCheck, CancerCare Manitoba, we have an important message:

HPV is as common as the common cold.

HPV affects over 80% of people and can lead to cancer. Protect yourself from cervical cancer with a Pap test every 3 years.

If you have ever had sexual contact, you are at risk for HPV. HPV is easily spread through current or past sexual contact, which can include oral, genital and/or rectal skin-to-skin contact, or sex with sex toys. HPV infection usually has no signs or symptoms. Most women age 21-69 who have ever been sexually active should have a regular Pap test every 3 years.


Help decrease the stigma of HPV and increase awareness of cervical cancer screening, and be entered to win!

  1. Think of something as common as HPV (i.e., the commom cold, being stuck at a train on your way to work)
  2. Tell us, or better yet, show us by snapping a photo.
  3. Post it to your favourite social media: Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram – but be sure to tag us (@GetCheckedMB) in your post. Bonus: use the hashtags #CancerScreeningSavesLives and #GetCheckedMB.
  4. Enter as many times as you like – be creative!
  5. We will draw and notify the winner through the account they entered with on November 1.
  6. For full contest details please click here.




Farm Fresh Feasting

Photo courtesy of @heartsandroots on Instagram.

There are hundreds of fantastic things about Manitoba summers, but one that we humans have come to rely on year after year is the summer fruit and vegetable harvest.

Even if you don’t particularly have a green thumb, there are many, many farmers across the province whose livelihoods depend upon us purchasing their home-grown fruits and veggies – and this is great for us because fresh, local produce is a delicious and nourishing treat from the earth!

There are farmers markets weekly – or more often – across the province. Markets are a great place to pick up your produce and meet the people who grow it, and best of all you come away with nutrient-rich, low-fat, low-calorie, high-fibre food for you and your family to enjoy, which is important for cancer prevention and overall health!

Here are some tips for your next trip to the market:

Make a list

Once you arrive at the market, your eyes can be bigger than your stomach. To avoid purchasing more than your family can eat, come with a list of what you really need.

Plan to freeze or preserve

Our growing season is short in Manitoba, but with some preparation, we can make the summer harvest last throughout (or at least into) the winter months. It’s quite easy to freeze vegetables like beans, broccoli, and cauliflower and fruits like berries. Canning tomatoes or making jarred salsa involves some labour, but is so worthwhile when you open a jar of flavourful summer tomatoes in the dead of winter! Cabbage and pickles are great for fermenting or pickling for a crunchy snack, too.

Stick to the basics

Often there are other fantastic vendors selling bakings, pies, jams and other treats at farmers markets too – but keep in mind that just because something is “homemade” doesn’t make it healthy! Treats like cookies or other farmer’s market finds like popsicles, doughnuts and creamy iced coffee are exactly that – treats. Make vitamin- and mineral-rich foods the primary staple in your diet.

For more summertime nutrition tips, see this article by Gina Sunderland MSc, RD CancerCare Manitoba’s oncology dietician.

And while you’re enjoying your summer, remember that getting checked for cancer should be a regular part of your health routine: most women age 21 – 69 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test every 3 years, most women age 50 – 74 should have a mammogram every 2 years and men and women age 50 – 74 should do an at-home screening test for colon cancer every 2 years. Make sure you’re up-to-date, and remind a friend too!

Red meat, processed meats & colon cancer: what should you know?


“Ban the bacon!” and “Hot dogs as carcinogenic as asbestos, cigarettes!”: these are the kinds of headlines we saw in Fall 2015 when the World Health Organization released the findings of several studies showing  links between red and processed meat consumption and increased risks of colon cancer.

Posts are always popping up in our Facebook newsfeeds about what we should and should not eat in order to avoid cancer and other diseases – it’s hard to know who and what to take seriously.

At we take colon cancer screening very seriously because colon cancer is the second-most deadly cancer for men (next to lung cancer) and third-most deadly cancer for women (next to lung and breast cancers) in Manitoba. But it is also one of the most treatable – 90% treatable, in fact – when it’s detected early.

The research findings by the WHO are something we should take seriously when it comes to the health of our colons – but let’s clarify some of the facts:

What is red meat?

Red meat comes from: beef, lamb, pork, veal and goat.

What is processed meat?

Processed meat is any meat that has been transformed by smoking, curing, salting, or adding any other chemicals or preservatives, for example: ham, bacon, sausages, salami, hot dogs and cold cuts. (It is primarily from the addition of the preservatives nitrates and nitrites).

Is processed meat as bad for me as smoking cigarettes?

No. The International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC) has deemed processed meats to be in Group 1: Carcinogenic to Humans – the same group where you’d see cigarettes and asbestos – because the evidence states that eating processed meats DOES increase your risk of colon cancer.

However, take this example:

In some studies, people with diets high in processed meat were almost two times as likely to have colon cancer, compared to people who consumed the least processed meat.

BUT smoking cigarettes increases your risk of numerous cancers (including colon and breast) by 20 times, when compared with non-smokers.

That is to say, if you are eating processed meat at each meal of the day, it could be as dangerous to your colon as smoking is to your overall health, but eating a serving (two strips) of bacon with your weekend brunch or roasting a hotdog over the campfire every now and then has very little effect on your risk of colon cancer.

Should I stop eating red meat?

Eating red meat is a personal choice. If you enjoy beef, pork, lamb, etc. as part of your regular diet, you are getting important nutrients from those dishes, including protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. The WHO recommends limiting your red meat intake to 18oz or less per week – this means about three servings, each about the size of a deck of cards. If you consistently eat more than 18oz of red meat per week, your risk of colon cancer increases.

The best things you can do for the health of your colon (and your health overall!) are:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Do not smoke cigarettes
  • Keep active and maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit alcohol
  • Get checked!

Getting checked for colon cancer is a simple screening test that you can do at home, and it is the best way to protect yourself against colon cancer because it can detect colon cancer early (long before you may experience symptoms), when 90% of the time it is completely treatable, and can prevent colon cancer before it starts. ColonCheck mails the test to Manitobans age 50-74 every two years to get screened for free. For more information, visit or call 1-855-95-CHECK.