‘It’s simple, it’s easy, you do it at home’ and requires only one stool sample, says Thunder Bay doctor
“One and done” could be the motto of a new home screening test for colon cancer, being introduced by the Ontario government.
The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) has several advantages over the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which it is replacing, said Dr. Nicole Zavagnin, a family physician in the Thunder Bay and the northwest regional primary care lead for Cancer Care Ontario.
“The nice thing about the FIT test is that it’s simple, it’s easy, you do it at home, there’s no invasive exam being done at all,” she said. “The take home message for people is that we’re able to find things early, when we’re more able to treat it easily, when we’re more likely to cure the actual condition and with the FIT test we can potentially find a polyp before it becomes a cancer.”
‘Easy to use’, requires only one sample
FIT is more sensitive to traces of blood in the stool, and unlike the FOBT can detect the presence of pre-cancerous polyps, she said.
But the most important change for many people is that the new test comes with a more user-friendly collection system.
“The device is a lot easier to use, so people are usually pretty happy about not having to play with their poop as much, they only need to take one sample and as well there are some other important changes such as they don’t have to undergo any dietary or medication restrictions when they’re completing the test,” Zavagnin said.
The goal of the provincial screening program is early detection of the disease. “When colon cancer is caught early, there is a higher chance for cure, with 90% of people being disease free at 5 years,” Zavagnin stated in a written release Monday from the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
Colon cancer 2nd most commonly diagnosed cancer
Colorectal cancer, commonly called colon cancer or bowel cancer, is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario and the second most common cause of cancer deaths, the release stated.
Cancer Care Ontario recommends people with no symptoms and at average risk – meaning they are between 50 -74 and no parent, sibling or child has been diagnosed with colon cancer – get checked using FIT every two years.
FIT kits are available to anyone with an OHIP number through their family doctor, nurse practitioner, Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213, or the Screen for Life Coach at 1-800-461-7031 or (807) 684-7777 in northwestern Ontario.
People living in Indigenous communities are encouraged to visit their health centre or nursing station, or call the Screen for Life Coach to receive a FIT kit, the release stated.
More information on cancer screening in northwestern Ontario is available here.