New FIT colon cancer screening test now available in Ontario

FIT is a simple, safe and accurate way to check for colon cancer

Colon Cancer graphic

Getting checked for colon cancer just got easier with the introduction of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) in Ontario. FIT is available free across the province through Cancer Care Ontario’s organized colon cancer screening program, ColonCancerCheck.

“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. Getting screened is the best way to find colon cancer early when it is easier to treat. When colon cancer is caught early, nine out of 10 people with the disease can be cured. If you have colon cancer and do not get screened, you may miss the chance for early and more effective treatment. To get the most benefit from colon cancer screening, people ages 50 to 74 must participate in screening every two years,” said Dr. Catherine Dubé, Clinical Lead, ColonCancerCheck, Cancer Care Ontario

This test is for Ontario residents, ages 50 to 74, with no first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister or child) diagnosed with colon cancer and no symptoms of the disease such as changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or abdominal pain. Screening with FIT targets the 50-to-74 age range because that’s when people are at the greatest risk of developing colon cancer. Anyone with symptoms or a first-degree family history should speak to their healthcare provider about the next steps since they may be at increased risk of developing this disease.

FIT is a simple, safe and accurate at-home test that checks stool (poop) for tiny amounts of blood, which could be caused by colon cancer and/or growths called polyps that can turn into cancer over time. Eligible residents are encouraged to take the test every two years. Screening with FIT can catch signs of colon cancer early when it’s easier to treat. When caught early, nine out of every 10 people with colon cancer can be cured. However, once colon cancer spreads to other parts of the body it’s much more difficult to treat.

“We are pleased to see this accurate, easy-to-use test available to eligible Ontario residents. Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. Screening is important because when caught early enough, 90 percent of people with colon cancer can be cured,” said Dr. Barry Lumb, Regional Endoscopy Lead for ColonCancerCheck, Physician in Chief at Hamilton Health Sciences and Professor with McMaster University’s Department of Medicine.

FIT kits are available through family doctors or nurse practitioners. Anyone without a healthcare provider can call Telehealth Ontario’s colon cancer screening line at 1-866-828-9213 or the Mobile Cancer Screening Coach at 1-855-338-3131. LifeLabs will mail eligible people a FIT kit following a request from their provider. The completed test can be mailed back to the lab or dropped off at a LifeLabs Patient Service Centre. For LifeLabs locations, visit locations.lifelabs.com.  If the test comes back positive, the next step is a colonoscopy for a closer look.

FIT replaces the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) for routine screening. FIT is a more sensitive screening test, which means it is better at detecting colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. It’s also more user-friendly and requires only one stool sample. And there are no medication or dietary restrictions (including vitamin C) with FIT. 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.

Eligible Ontario residents 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 colon cancer screening, visit cancercare.on.ca/colon.

Source – Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Regional Cancer Program press release

 

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