Getting checked for colon cancer just got easier with the introduction of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) in Ontario. FIT is available across the province through Cancer Care Ontario’s organized colon cancer screening program, ColonCancerCheck.
Cancer Care Ontario recommends that people who have no symptoms and are at average risk get checked using FIT every two years. Someone is at average risk for colon cancer if they are 50 to 74 years old with no first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister or child) who has been diagnosed with colon cancer.
Dr. Nicole Zavagnin, Northwest Regional Primary Care Lead, explained details of the new screening tool. “FIT is a simple and safe at-home test that checks someone’s stool (poop) for tiny amounts of blood, which could be caused by a colon cancer and/or pre-cancerous polyps, which are growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer over time,” stated Dr. Zavagnin.
FIT replaces the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) for people at average risk of developing colon cancer. Dr. Zavagnin continued, “Although there is high-quality scientific evidence to support screening with FOBT, FIT offers several advantages:
Colorectal cancer (commonly called “colon cancer” or “bowel cancer”) is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. It is estimated that in 2018, about 11,600 people in Ontario were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and about 3,360 people in Ontario died from the disease.
“Getting screened for colon cancer can help to find the disease early, when it is easier to treat,” encouraged Dr. Zavagnin. “When colon cancer is caught early, there is a higher chance for cure, with 90% of people being disease free at 5 years.”
People ages 50 to 74 are encouraged to discuss their eligibility for ColonCancerCheck FIT screening with their family doctor or nurse practitioner. Anyone without a family doctor or nurse practitioner can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213, or call the Screen for Life
Coach at 1-800-461-7031 or (807) 684-7777. Individuals living in an Indigenous community are encouraged to visit their health centre or nursing station, or call the Screen for Life Coach to receive a FIT kit.
LifeLabs will mail eligible people a FIT kit following a request from their family doctor or nurse practitioner. Once completed by the participant, the FIT kit is mailed back to the lab or dropped off at a LifeLabs Patient Service Centre (http://locations.lifelabs.com/).
Eligible people in Ontario will continue to receive letters inviting them to get screened, provide information about their test results, let them know if they need to get more tests done, and remind them when it is time to be screened again.
For more information on colon cancer screening in Ontario, visit cancercare.on.ca/colon.