What you need to know about Colorectal Cancer Screening

This Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the Marathon Family Health Team is encouraging you to learn more about the at-home cancer screening test for colorectal cancer called the fecal immunochemical test (FIT). The FIT checks your stool (poop) for tiny drops of blood, which could be caused by colorectal cancer or some pre-cancerous polyps (growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer over time). Completing a FIT regularly can help find cancer early, when it’s easier to treat.

What is colorectal cancer?

The colon and rectum make up the last part of the gastrointestinal (digestive) system. Colorectal cancer is cancer that affects either the colon or rectum, or both. It may also be referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where the cancer originates.

Why is it important to get checked for colorectal cancer? 

When colon cancer is caught early, 9 out of 10 people with the disease can be cured. If someone does not get screened, they could have colorectal cancer and not know it.

Who is eligible for a FIT?

Individuals who are at average risk of colorectal cancer who are between the ages of 50 to 74 years should complete a FIT regularly. Someone is at “average risk” if they have no first-degree relatives (parent, brother, siser or child) who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

When should you get screened for colorectal cancer? 

If you are at average risk, you should get checked every two years using the FIT. If you are at higher risk (i.e. if you have a first degree relative who has been diagnosed with colon cancer), please speak with your healthcare provider about recommended colon cancer screening. 

How can you get your FIT kit?

If you are eligible for colorectal cancer screening, you will receive a reminder letter from Cancer Care Ontario that you are due to complete a FIT. Once you receive the letter, contact your family physician or nurse practitioner and they will order you a free FIT kit. LifeLabs will then mail a test to your address of choice.

If you don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, you can get a FIT by calling Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213.

What happens after you get checked?

Cancer Care Ontario will mail you your FIT results. They will also send a copy of your results to your family physician or nurse practitioner. 

If your result is normal, it will be recommended that you complete another FIT in two years. 

If your result is abnormal, meaning that blood was detected in your stool, it does not necessarily mean you have cancer. But it does mean that additional testing (e.g. a colonoscopy) will be recommended.

Tips to reduce your risk of colon cancer: 

  • Be physically active
  • Reduce alcohol intake (no more than two drinks a day for men and no more than one drink a day for women)
  • Eat a diet high in fiber (including vegetables and fruit)
  • Limit red meat and processed meat
  • Avoid smoking or using  tobacco products
  • Get checked with the FIT

For more information, please speak with your healthcare provider or visit the Cancer Care Ontario website at: https://www.cancercareontario.ca/en/types-of-cancer/colorectal/screening