Ontario has one of the highest rates of colorectal or bowel cancer in the world and a new Colon Cancer Check program offers free colorectal cancer testing (Fecal Occult Blood Test and follow-up Colonoscopy) to adults over 50. The Niagara Health System is a key partner in this screening program, receiving extra funding to carry out more colonoscopies each year.
The Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) is a simple, self-administered test that can be done in the privacy of your own home. Small amounts of stool are applied to a cardboard slide. The FOBT detects trace amounts of blood in the stool that may indicate the presence of a cancer. It is recommended that everyone 50 years and older should be screened with a FOBT every two years.
If results are positive, the second test – a colonoscopy – is performed by a specialist in hospital as an outpatient test. Colonoscopies involve examining the lining of the rectum and colon using a thin flexible fiberoptic instrument with a tiny camera on the end. If necessary, biopsies are taken and polyps are removed. Removing benign polyps can prevent cancer from developing.
Niagara Falls (Greater Niagara General Site), St. Catharines Site and Welland (Welland Hospital Site) hospitals all offer colonoscopies as part of the Colorectal Screening Program. Colonoscopies are booked through a physician’s office.
To get an FOBT kit, contact your health-care provider or pharmacist.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in Canada. Some people aren’t even sure what it is other than it is related to an unmentionable area of the body. Colon cancer develops in the large intestine, generally from tiny growths inside the colon called polyps. Over time, some polyps can become cancerous. The term colorectal refers to both colon cancer and rectal cancer.
- How common is colorectal cancer?
Ontario has one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the world. The Canadian Cancer Society estimated that in 2009, 3,300 Ontarians would die from the disease and 8,100 Ontarians would be newly diagnosed.
- What is the cure rate for colorectal cancer?
There is a 90% chance of curing colorectal cancer if it is detected early through regular screening. The chance of curing colorectal cancer is only 10% if it is detected at an advanced stage. This is why regular screening is so important.
- What are the screening methods?
There are various methods of screening for colorectal cancer. Because there are little or no symptoms of colorectal cancer, early screening is doubly important. The screening methods that are part of the ColonCancerCheck program are:
- Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) – The FOBT is a simple, self-administered test that can be done in the privacy of your own home, free of charge. It can detect the presence of trace amounts of blood in your stool. A positive test result doesn’t necessarily mean that you have colorectal cancer but does require follow-up to find out if you do have colorectal cancer. Approximately 10% of people with a positive FOBT are found to have cancer during a follow-up colonoscopy. It is recommended that everyone 50 years and older should be screened with an FOBT every two years.
- Colonoscopy – A colonoscopy is an examination of the lining of your rectum and colon using a long flexible tube with a camera on the end. It is recommended for individuals at increased risk, such as those who have one or more close relatives (parent, sibling or child) who had colorectal cancer and those with a positive FOBT result.
- Who is at risk of developing colorectal cancer?
If you are a male or female who is aged 50 years or older, with no family history of colorectal cancer, you are considered to be at average risk and should be screened using a take-home Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) every two years. Please speak to your healthcare provider about screening.
You have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer if you have one or more close family members (parent, sibling, child) who have had colorectal cancer, or you have had a positive FOBT result. It is recommended that you get screened using colonoscopy at 50 or 10 years earlier than the age of the diagnosis of your parent or sibling. Please speak to your healthcare provider about screening.
- I don’t have a healthcare provider. How do I get screened?
If you don’t have a health care provider you can speak to a representative from the ColonCancerCheck program by calling 1-800-410-5853. They will provide you with details on how to get screened.
Learn more about colorectal screening by going to one of these websites: