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Colon Cancer Screening

Why get screened?

Colon cancer is easier to treat when found at an early stage. With early detection and treatment, the chance of survival is more than 90%. Screening could save your life.

Age is the biggest risk factor for colon cancer – almost 95% of new cases diagnosed each year in BC are in men and women age 50 or older. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and the third most common cause of cancer death for women in Canada.

All women and men age 50 to 74 without symptoms* should get screened regularly for colon cancer.

There are two screening tests available for colon cancer – the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and colonoscopy. Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you.

Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

The FIT is recommended every two years for people who are at average risk. If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, your doctor will probably recommend a FIT test if you do not have symptoms*, you have no personal history of adenomas (non-cancerous polyps that may become cancerous) or you have no significant family history of colon cancer.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is recommended every five years for people who are at higher risk. If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy if you have a significant family history of colon cancer. This could include any 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. Adenomas are a type of non-cancerous tumours.

Colon Screening Program

If your doctor refers you for screening, you will be enrolled in the provincial Colon Screening Program when you pick up your FIT at a lab or when your doctor refers you for colonoscopy.

If the result of your FIT is abnormal or you have significant family history for colon cancer, the provincial Colon Screening Program will refer you to Island Health for necessary follow up. The provincial program will also keep track of your screening progress and remind you when it is time to test again. 

*Symptoms can include blood in your stool, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, or weight loss. If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor about a referral for diagnostic testing.

If you have a personal history of colon cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you should continue to obtain care through your specialist or doctor as you have.