Colorectal Cancer ScreeningAt a Glance Screening & Results Your Risk Factors Myths & Facts Resources
Get the FIT – the colorectal cancer screening test which is easy to use, non-invasive and can be done at home.
Colorectal cancer screening.
Find it early. Prevent it. Treat it.
You may not have given much thought to being screened for colorectal cancer (or what some people refer to as colon cancer), especially if you feel perfectly healthy or no one you know has ever been diagnosed with the disease. But cancer can develop without feeling any symptoms, so once you’ve reached 50, getting screened is one of the best things you can do to give you peace of mind.
What is colorectal cancer screening?
Colorectal cancer screening (or colon cancer screening) simply means looking for cancer in people who don’t have any symptoms of the disease. These tests look for abnormalities that could be or become cancer. If nothing’s found, you’ll gain important peace of mind. If something is found, and it is cancerous, or pre-cancerous, it can be removed and treated early if needed.
There are a few colorectal cancer screening tests that are available once you turn 50:
- Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) – This is a home stool test that is recommended for colorectal cancer screening for anyone who has no personal or family history with the disease. It’s safe, easy to do and can be done right at home – and should be done at least every year to make sure nothing new has developed.
- Colonoscopy – If your FIT shows any abnormal results, this follow-up test lets your doctor examine the lining of the rectum and colon for polyps. Polyps are small growths that may or may not be related to cancer and they can be removed right away if they’re found. A colonoscopy can also be recommended as your screening test instead of a FIT if you have any history that puts you at an increased risk.
Why is screening important?
In Alberta, colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and the third for women. Colon cancer screening can help detect the disease early, when 90% of cases can be treated successfully. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Do you need to get screened?
If you’re 50 years or over – male or female – it’s important to start getting screened for colorectal cancer regularly. Once you begin, you should repeat the FIT every year to make sure nothing has changed. Think of it as a regular part of your health routine.
Click on the button below to learn about the kinds of things that affect your risk
How do you get screened for colorectal cancer?
Getting screened can be done easily right at home. If you’re 50 years or older, ask your doctor about the FIT home stool test, even if you feel well. If you’ve previously had colorectal cancer or if someone in your family has had colorectal cancer when they were younger than 60, talk to your doctor about getting a colonoscopy.
If you don’t currently have a doctor, here are some ways to find one:
- Call Health Link Alberta at 8-1-1
- Visit www.informalberta.ca.
- Visit www.cpsa.ca (to find doctors only).
Remember, getting screened is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself against colorectal cancer.
What are the risks of colorectal cancer screening?
Colorectal cancer screening tests are generally very safe but any medical test has some risk worth knowing about.
- Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) – A FIT is a home stool test that is easy to do, safe and won’t cause you any harm. The only risk is that the test isn’t perfect and can miss blood in the stool, since a polyp or cancer may not be bleeding at the time of the test. This is why it is important to take the test every year.
- Colonoscopy – Colonoscopy is a safe procedure but in some rare cases, some complications can occur. Here are some things to consider:
- Make sure you carefully follow the instructions for the bowel preparation in order to avoid dehydration.
- The sedation used at the time of your colonoscopy can cause breathing problems.
What’s important to know is that the number of people who have been saved through these tests dramatically outnumber those who have experienced any negative consequence.
5 Feet of Fabulous
Learn why the colon is so important to our health and how to take care of it. From Cancer View Canada and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.