Colon Cancer Screening
Who should get screened?
If you are a BC man or woman between the ages of 50 to 74 with no symptoms*, you should get screened for colon cancer.
*If you experience symptoms such as blood in your stool, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, or weight loss, talk to your family physician about a referral to see a specialist.
What screening tests are available?
There are two screening tests for colon cancer – the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) for average risk individuals and colonoscopy for individuals at a higher risk of colon cancer:
FIT is recommended every two years for people who do not have a personal history of adenomas or a significant family history of colon cancer.
Colonoscopy is recommended every five years for people with at least one of the following:
- One first degree relative (mother, father, sister, brother, daughter or son) with colon cancer diagnosed under the age of 60; or,
- Two or more first degree relatives with colon cancer diagnosed at any age; or,
- A personal history of adenomas – a type of non-cancerous tumours.
If you have a personal history of colon cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you should continue to obtain care through your specialist and family physician. You should not be screened through the Colon Screening Program.
Why should I get screened?
Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer and one of the most preventable cancers. If detected at its earliest stage, the chance of survival is over 90 per cent. Screening can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps (small growths that can develop in the colon or rectum) before they turn into cancer. Screening can also find cancers early, when there are more treatment options and better outcomes.
How do I get screened?
- Talk to your family physician to determine which screening test is right for you.
- If you are eligible for screening, your doctor will give you an order form for a free FIT kit or will refer you to a patient coordinator (nurse) for your community for a colonoscopy assessment
- If you are doing a FIT kit, you can take the order form to a lab in Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, and pick up your FIT kit.
- Follow the instructions in the kit to collect samples of your stool in the privacy of your own home, and then drop the sample off at a participating lab.
- If you are being referred for colonoscopy, a patient coordinator will contact you directly.
- For more information, visit the Colon Screening Program website.
What if I get an abnormal FIT result?
If you have an abnormal FIT result, it does not mean you have cancer. Your FIT result will be sent to the BC Cancer Agency and a patient coordinator (nurse) for your community will automatically get in touch with you. The nurse will speak with you about your test result and recommend follow-up testing. Usually, a colonoscopy is recommended. For more information, visit the Colon Screening Program website.
Is there a cost to get screened?
The FIT and the colonoscopy procedure is free to insured BC residents with referral from a family physician.
Need more information?
For more information about colon cancer and the Colon Screening Program, visit www.screeningbc.ca/colon.
Dr. Michael O'Shaughnessy