Colon Cancer Screening

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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. If colon cancer is detected at its earliest stage, the chance of survival is over 90 per cent.

Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

  • blood in your stool
  • abdominal pain
  • change in bowel habits
  • weight loss

If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor about a referral for diagnostic testing.

Testing

All women and men ages 50 to 74 should get screened regularly for colon cancer. 

There are two screening tests available for colon cancer – the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and the colonoscopy. The FIT is for average risk individuals, and the colonoscopy is for those at a higher risk of colon cancer. 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 do not have symptoms, a personal history of adenomas (non-cancerous tumours) or a significant family history of colon cancer.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is recommended every five years for people with a significant family history, which includes 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.

If screening is right for you, 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 a colonoscopy.

The program will refer you to Fraser Health for necessary follow-up or recall you at the appropriate time. It will also keep track of your screening progress and remind you when it is time to test again.

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.

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