Janice Perrino, Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation chief executive officer, left, and Rebecca Taylor, communications director, are out to Light the Trees and raise $1 million throughout December to build a new endoscopy suite at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo hospital foundation trying to Light the Trees to combat colon cancer

December campaign calls for donations to build new $1.5-million endoscopy suite at NRGH

Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation will be lighting up the trees as it tries to put up a fight against colon cancer.

The foundation is about to begin its fouth annual Light the Trees Christmas campaign to raise the remaining $1 million needed to build a third endoscopy suite at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

In Nanaimo there is a backlog of patients waiting for colonoscopies that could save their lives. Of more than 3,500 people waiting up to one year for the procedure, statistically, about 30 to 40 of them will have undiagnosed colon cancer, according to a foundation press release. It ranks as the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men and the third-highest in women; yet, if caught early, colon cancer is highly treatable.

“A colonoscopy can do a couple of things,” said Janice Perrino, hospital foundation chief executive officer. “It can diagnose serious illnesses, but it can also remove polyps before they become cancer, which is wonderful, and lots of polyps never become cancer because when we take them out, they’re just taken out and they’re gone, so it’s one of the only types of procedures that can cure the cancer before it even becomes cancer.”

Nanaimo’s population is on the rise, as are the numbers of patients who need treatment. NRGH’s two existing endoscopy suites can perform 15 to 20 procedures per day, but 50 new people are added to the wait list daily. The only way to shorten wait times for the procedure is to build a third endoscopy suite which will allow up to 35 per cent more colonoscopy procedures per day and shorten wait times for hundreds of patients.

“We only have two of these surgical suites,” Perrino said. “We desperately need a third.”

The total cost to build the suite is $1.5 million. The hospital foundation has already raised $500,000 and from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, the foundation’s Light the Trees campaign will try to raise the remaining $1 million to complete the project.

The closer the foundation gets to its fundraising goal, the more trees in front of NRGH’s main entrance will be set aglow with Christmas lights.

To learn more about this year’s campaign and the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation and to view a video explaining the function and need for a new endoscopy suite, visit the foundation website at https://nanaimohospitalfoundation.com/.


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