SUDBURY, ON – Getting checked for colon cancer just got easier with the introduction of the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) in Ontario. FIT is available, for free, across the province through Cancer Care Ontario’s organized colon cancer screening program, ColonCancerCheck.
“FIT is a simple, safe and accurate at-home test that checks someone’s stool for tiny amounts of blood, which could be caused by colon cancer or pre-cancerous polyps, which are growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer over time,” says Dr. Scott Shulman, Regional Colorectal Cancer Screening Lead for Northeastern Ontario. “Early detection can provide you with better treatment options and outcomes. We hope more people will also talk about colorectal cancer screening with their health care providers.”
Cancer Care Ontario and the Northeast Cancer Centre recommend that people who have no symptoms and are at average risk of getting colon cancer 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.
FIT replaces the Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) for people at average risk of getting colon cancer. Although there is high-quality scientific evidence to support screening with FOBT, FIT offers several advantages:
- FIT is a more sensitive screening test, which means it is better at detecting colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps;
- FIT is more user-friendly because the collection device is easy to use and reduces the amount of contact people have with their stool when collecting it;
- Only one stool sample is needed with FIT; and
- When completing FIT, there are no medication or dietary restrictions, including vitamin C.
“Research has shown that people prefer screening with the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) over the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which leads to increases in colon cancer screening participation when FIT is used,” says Dr. Catherine Dubé, Clinical Lead, ColonCancerCheck, Cancer Care Ontario. “When colon cancer is caught early, nine out of 10 people with the disease can be cured. By not getting screened, people miss out on a chance for more effective treatment.”
Colorectal cancer, commonly called colon or bowel cancer, is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario and the second most common cause of cancer related death. It is estimated that in 2018, about 11,595 people in Ontario were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and about 3,359 people in Ontario died from the disease. Getting checked for colorectal cancer is the best way to find the disease early, when it is easier to treat.
People ages 50 to 74 can 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 visit a mobile screening coach, where coaches are available. More information on mobile screening coaches can be found here. People living in a First Nation community may visit a health centre or nursing station to discuss their eligibility for a FIT kit.
LifeLabs will mail eligible people a FIT kit following a request from their family doctor or nurse practitioner. Once completed, the FIT kit can be mailed back to the lab or dropped off at a LifeLabs Patient Service Centre.
Eligible people in Ontario will continue to receive letters inviting them to get screened, telling them about their test results, letting them know if they need to get more tests done and reminding them when it is time to be screened again.
For more information on colorectal screening, visit Cancer Care Ontario’s website.