Cancer Care Program

Comprehensive information about cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and care for Nova Scotians.

The Blue Ribbon Kit

Information for Colon Cancer Patients and Their Families

This kit provides a variety of information for patients who have been diagnosed with colon cancer and their families.

Some of the resources in this kit have been created by the cancer care program; others have been created by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association for Psychosocial Oncology, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.

You can access most of the resources in this kit by clicking on the hyperlink provided. Paper copies of these resources are available from your doctor, nurse or cancer patient navigator.

We are interested in your feedback about these resources. Send your feedback to to help us improve the kit for future patients.


Colon diagram


What is colon cancer?
Colon (or colorectal or large bowel) cancer is any cancer that occurs in the large intestine, which is made up of the colon and the rectum.

How do most colon cancers start?
Most colon cancers start as small growths in the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps, which can bleed into the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps turn into cancer.

How is colon cancer affecting Nova Scotians?
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Nova Scotia. Approximately 1000 men and women are diagnosed with colon cancer every year, and about 350 of them will die from the disease.

What are the warning signs of colon cancer?
Colon cancer grows slowly and often has no warning signs until the cancer is more advanced. Common signs of colon cancer include:

  • Rectal bleeding, or any sign of blood after bowel movements.
  • Unexplained weight loss, tiredness or exhaustion.
  • Lasting change in bowel habits such as:
    • Diarrhea or constipation for more than a few weeks
    • Stools that are consistently more narrow than usual
    • The feeling that you aren’t completely emptying your bowel.

If you have any of these warning signs of colon cancer, please see your doctor or nurse.

What should I do if I have any questions or concerns about colon cancer?
If you have questions or concerns about colon cancer, please speak to your family doctor.

Illustrations courtesy of CancerCare Manitoba (

Risk Factors

Who is at an increased risk of developing colon cancer?
Individuals at a higher risk of developing colon cancer include those with:

  • a family history (parent, child or sibling) of colon cancer
  • hereditary conditions such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC)
  • long-standing inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • history of previous uterine, ovarian, breast or small bowel cancer
  • previous colorectal polyps or cancer

If you fall in this higher risk category, please speak with your family doctor to determine your risk and to develop an appropriate screening plan.

How can I lower my risk for colon cancer?
You can lower your risk for colon cancer by:

  • getting screened regularly
  • eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising
  • not smoking
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • taking vitamin D supplements

More Info

Peer Support

The Canadian Cancer Society offers a free, confidential, telephone-based Peer Support program.

This program connects people living with colon cancer with a colon cancer survivor who is a trained volunteer. The volunteer listens, offers encouragement and shares ideas for coping – all from their unique perspective as someone who’s been there.

Family members can also be connected with volunteers who have cared for a person with colon cancer.

To register:

For more information: