There’s a new kit in town when it comes to colorectal cancer screening.
The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) replaced the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) in 2019 in Ontario.
Both tests check for hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps.
FIT is a more sensitive screening test than FOBT, meaning it’s better at detecting colorectal cancers and some pre-cancerous polyps. It’s easier for users because it only needs one small poop sample and there is no dietary prep involved.
FIT is a safe and painless test that you can do at home. Getting checked with FIT can help find colon cancer early, when there are no uncomfortable symptoms (such as persistent diarrhea and stomach pain). Regular cancer screening (getting checked) is important because it can find colon cancer early when it may be smaller and easier to treat.
People ages 50 to 74 with no first degree relative (parent, brother, sister or child) that has been diagnosed with colon cancer should talk to their doctor or nurse practitioner about getting checked with FIT every two years. If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about when and how you should be screened.
Anyone without a family doctor or nurse practitioner can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213. People living in a First Nation community may visit a health centre or nursing station to discuss their eligibility for a FIT kit.
LifeLabs will mail eligible people a FIT kit following a request from their family doctor or nurse practitioner. Once a person completes the FIT kit, they can mail it back to LifeLabs (a self-addressed envelope is included) or drop it off at a LifeLabs location. FIT is not a diagnostic test. That means if the test comes back positive (that blood was detected in the sample) you’d be called back for a colonoscopy to investigate further.
While the thought of collecting your poop may be slightly unappealing, it is important to do as it is a simple and easy way to catch colon cancer early.
Learn more about getting checked for colon cancer: cancercareontario.ca/colon
(This post was updated February 2021)