Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum, and it is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in Ontario for both men and women. The good news is that colorectal cancer is 90% curable when caught early through cancer screening. There are no physical signs or symptoms during the early stages of this slow growing cancer which is why it is important to get screened.

ColonCancerCheck is the provincial colorectal cancer screening program. The program recommends that men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 years, with no first-degree family history (parent, sibling or child) of colorectal cancer, complete a take-home ColonCancerCheck fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit.

As part of this program, you will receive letters inviting you to get screened for colorectal cancer, reminder letters when it is time for you to get screened and letters notifying you of your colorectal cancer screening results.

Early Detection - The Path to a Good Life

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy

Cancer screening saves lives. Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy knows this firsthand as a colorectal cancer survivor himself. Through routine cancer screening, his cancer was found early so he could go on to live a Good Life. This informative video is a call to action for everyone to take responsibility for their health by getting screened for cancer.

Click here to view 'The Path to a Good Life' video


When should I be screened for colorectal cancer?

Men and women who are at average risk should start screening for colorectal cancer at age 50 using a take-home ColonCancerCheck fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit. Average risk means that you do not have any symptoms of colorectal cancer and you don’t have a first-degree family history (parent, sibling or child) of colorectal cancer.


If you do have a first-degree family history of colorectal cancer, then you should be screened using colonoscopy at age 50 or ten years prior to your family member’s age at diagnosis. For example, if your family member was 55 years of age when they were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, then you should begin screened with a colonoscopy at age 45 years.


Talk to your health care provider about colorectal cancer screening to determine which method is best for you.

How do I screen for colorectal cancer?

There are different ways to screen for colorectal cancer, but ColonCancerCheck recommends two primary ways:

  1. Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

The FOBT is a simple test that can be done in the privacy of your own home. It tests for minute traces of blood in your stool, which may be a sign of colorectal cancer. To complete the test you need to provide three stool samples over a 10-day time period. Once this is done, you mail the kit in a postage-paid addressed envelope to a laboratory for analysis.


This screening test is recommended for adults between the ages of 50 and 74 years who have no first-degree family history of colorectal cancer.

For more information and easy to understand instructions about completing your kit watch this video.

A ColonCancerCheck Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) kit.  To get an FOBT kit, you can:

  • Talk to your health care provider (family doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant etc.).
  • If you don’t have a health care provider, you can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213 or book an appointment on the Screen for Life Coach.
  1. Colonoscopy

The second way to get screened for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. A colonscopy is day surgery procedure done at a hospital. During the colonoscopy a doctor inserts a long, flexible tube with a camera into the rectum and the colon which allows them to look for signs of cancer. If the doctor finds any polyps (abnormal growths) or other signs of cancer they will remove them for further testing.


You will be required to complete a bowel preparation at home a day in advance of your colonoscopy appointment in order to allow the doctor to see the walls of the colon and rectum clearly.
This screening test is recommended for individuals with increased risk for colorectal cancer or who have had a positive FOBT result. You are considered to be at increased risk if you have a first-degree family member who has had colorectal cancer.

Where can you get a colonoscopy?

In Northwestern Ontario, a colonoscopy is performed in a hospital and requires a doctor’s referral. Speak to your health care provider about the colorectal cancer screening test that is best for you.
Access to a screening colonoscopy at our Hospital can be directed through the Diagnostic Assessment Program (DAP). The DAP provides a single point of access for screening colonoscopy if you have a positive FOBT test or have first-degree family history of colorectal cancer. Ask your doctor to refer you directly to the DAP where a patient navigator will work with you to ensure you receive timely access to care.
For more information on the colorectal DAP click here.

Cancer Screening:

  • If caught early, there is a 90% chance of curing colorectal cancer.
  • Men and women, 50 years and older, should screen for colorectal cancer.
  • Cancer screening finds cancer earlier, when it is easier to treat.
  • The Screen for Life Coach offers breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening services.
  • We work with Cancer Care Ontario to offer organized cancer screening programs for adults in our region. Visit cancercare.on.ca for more information.