March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Mike Kohle is a RN and works as the Territorial Colorectal Cancer Screening Specialist. Over the past year, he’s been rolling out an improved screening program in the NWT.
“This program to me is a big improvement, because it’s so easy for people in communities to do these tests at home. New advancements in screening methods are allowing us to remove some of the barriers to care in remote settings. To me that’s the most exciting opportunity about this -- we’re really able to equalize access to care.”
Mike explains that screening used to require a three-step, multi-day process. Now the tests are mailed directly to people’s homes and only require one step. After a patient has been screened, Mike is the person on the other side of the phone calling with their results.
“Most people are really happy to hear from us when I call with results. I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve been concerned about colorectal cancer, but have been putting off the testing, or are unaware of how easy it can be until it shows up in their mailbox.”
Before this, Mike worked at the Stanton endoscopy program for over five years, working directly with patients and guiding them through their procedures. Now he’s able to use that firsthand knowledge to support patients through their screening process by answering question, talking about what they can expect, and easing their concerns.
“Doing this job well is important to me because it can make such a huge difference to people’s lives. I feel strongly that everyone in the territory who meets the screening criteria should be offered the screening test and get tested. Diagnosing early can make a huge difference.”
In the NWT Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death - but if you catch it early, 9 out of 10 cases can be cured. That is why it’s important to get screened early before symptoms develop.
Currently the program that Mike works in has rolled out in the Beaufort Delta, Sahtu, Hay River and Dehcho regions, with plans to expand to the entire Territory.
Mike was born in Whitehorse, and spent a lot of his childhood in different communities in the Yukon and northern Alberta. He’s lived in the NWT since 2009 and has two children. All of them enjoy the many opportunities to be involved in the community and like to be active playing sports, paddleboarding, hiking, and biking.
“It’s really great being able to get off work in the summer, have plenty of amazing opportunities for outdoor activities, and still have sunlight for hours and hours.
Get screened: www.cancernwt.ca