Screening helps find colorectal cancer early, before there are symptoms and when treatment has the best chance of working. When colon cancer is caught early, nine out of 10 people with the disease can be cured. If colon cancer is caught later, it can be treated, but beating it is less likely – only about one out of every 10 people with colon cancer that is caught at a later stage will be cured.
Getting checked with the (fecal immunochemical test) FIT helps find colon cancer early, when there are no uncomfortable symptoms (such as persistent diarrhea and stomach pain) and when it is easier to treat. Without getting checked, someone could have colon cancer and not know it.
Get the fecal immunochemical test FIT!
It is easy to get checked for colon cancer with an at-home test, called FIT. If you are between the age of 50 and 74 and have no symptoms, speak with your health care provider to discuss if the FIT test is the right test for you.
Regular cancer screening (getting checked) is important because it can find colon cancer early when it may be smaller and easier to treat. Colon cancer screening with FIT may also prevent some colon cancers by finding polyps that could turn into cancer.
What is the fecal immunochemical test (FIT)?
FIT is a simple, safe and painless at-home cancer screening test that checks your stool (poop) for tiny amounts of blood, which could be caused by colon cancer and/or pre-cancerous polyps (growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer over time).
Who is eligible for colorectal cancer screening?
ColonCancerCheck recommends that people who have no symptoms and are at average risk of colon cancer get screened with FIT every two years. If someone ages 50 to 74 with no symptoms or family history of colon cancer chooses to get screened with flexible sigmoidoscopy instead of FIT, they should be screened again in 10 years.
“Average risk” is defined as people ages 50 to 74 with no first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister or child) who has been diagnosed with colon cancer.
People with abnormal FIT results should have a colonoscopy within eight weeks of their abnormal results.
ColonCancerCheck recommends that people who have no symptoms and are at increased risk of colon cancer get screened with a colonoscopy. Someone at increased risk should start screening at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age their relative was diagnosed with colon cancer, whichever comes first.
“Increased risk” is defined as people with a family history of colon cancer that includes at least one first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) who has been diagnosed with this disease.
The ColonCancerCheck program does not recommend regular screening for people younger than age 50 with no first-degree relatives (parent, brother, sister or child) who have been diagnosed with colon cancer. Even though the number of colon and rectal cancers being diagnosed in younger adults is increasing in Canada, it is still very low in adults younger than age 50.
Finding colorectal cancer early
The good news is that when colorectal cancer is caught early there is a 90% chance that people with colorectal cancer can be cured.
Through colorectal cancer screening, polyps can be found early and removed before they become cancerous. If cancer is already present, but found early, then treatment is more likely to be effective.
Screening helps find colorectal cancer early, when there are no uncomfortable symptoms such as persistent diarrhea and stomach pain, and when treatment has the best chance of working.
Recently Gwen Rannelli was diagnosed with cancer at age 73. She was always afraid to be screened even after her doctor recommended it.
“I was always encouraged to be screened but I was too scared. After I was diagnosed, I realized how important it is to take care of yourself and take the time to be screened. I encourage my family friends and family members as often as possible to use the kits and make the appointments. It could save their lives” - Gwen Rannelli, cancer patient from Sudbury.
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) decommissioning
If you did a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), you should wait 2 years after your FOBT before doing a fecal immunochemical test (FIT). Labs will keep testing FOBT kits until December 24, 2019. This means you can still get your test result if you did an FOBT before FIT was available.
You must complete and return your FOBT kit before December 24, 2019. If you cannot return your FOBT before December 24, 2019, you should talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about doing a FIT instead.
If you have an FOBT kit, but would rather do a FIT, talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about switching tests.
Talk to your primary care provider
Learn more about colorectal cancer
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), which is the lower part of the digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last six inches of the colon. Together, they are referred to as colorectal cancer (commonly called ‘colon cancer’ or ‘bowel cancer’).
There are many reasons why a person may develop colorectal cancer, and some are better understood than others. However, we know that growths on the lining of the colon and rectum, called polyps, can sometimes turn into cancer over time.
Most often, there are no physical symptoms during the early stages of the disease. As colon cancer develops over time, the following problems may occur:
Colon cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. Ontario has some of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the world. Despite this, many men and women are not getting checked.
What you can do
Some habits or personal characteristics, called risk factors, can increase someone’s chance of getting colon cancer. Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as age and family history. However, there are risk factors that can be changed. Here are steps that can be taken to lower the risk of getting colon cancer:
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