In Canada, drivers approaching the age of 80 are required to re-take their driving tests. There is no opting out; the re-test is a government-mandated preventive measure to ensure an individual unfit for driving is taken off the road before they become a danger to themself or others. Statistics for how many people this re-test has saved would be impossible to collect, but the numbers (and the lives they represent) are likely in the thousands, growing healthily.
Why, then, is there no one-size-fits-all preventive test for more pervasive killers like cancer and heart disease? In 2009, cancer was the leading cause of Canadian deaths (71,125), followed by heart disease (49,271), stroke (14,105) and chronic lower respiratory diseases (10,859). Accidents, or unintentional deaths (10,250) killed the fifth-highest amount of Canadians, and that number includes all sudden misfortunes, not just motor vehicle accidents, and certainly not just motor vehicle accidents caused by older drivers.
None too soon, BC is launching a new colon screening program. As is stated on the website: “Age is the biggest risk factor for colon cancer – over 94 per cent of new cases diagnosed each year in BC are in men and women age 50 or older.” When colon cancer is detected in its earliest stages, survival rates are approximately 90 per cent, and simple screening tests like the FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) can be done at home for free.
AIM’s head MRI technologist, Wayne Picker, hails from Australia, where residents over 50 have been receiving such tests from the Australian Government by post since 2008. Hopefully, Canada will follow suit in the near future and make early cancer screening as mandatory in the 50+ age group as driver’s license re-testing is in the 80+ age group.
“This,” says Dr. Attariwala, “is how the government should take care of the population.”