ColonCheck

ColonCheck recommends most people age 50-74 do a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every 2 years. The FOBT is a simple, painless test done in the privacy of your own home. The FOBT can help find:

  • polyps before they turn into cancer, and

  • colon cancer in an earlier stage making it more easily treated.  

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Age is your greatest risk factor. 90% of colon cancer cases are found in those over age 50.


Colon cancer is one of the most often diagnosed cancers in men and women of Manitoba.


9 times out of 10 colon cancer can be cured if caught early. The FOBT can see what you cannot see.

Colon Cancer

The colon is part of your body’s digestive system. The colon moves waste material, or things your body does not need, from the small intestine to the rectum.

Together the colon and the rectum make up the large intestine (bowel).

The small intestine absorbs most of the nutrients from what you eat and then passes on the leftover waste to the colon. The colon absorbs water from the waste. What is left is called stool (feces or poop). When you have a bowel movement, the stool leaves the rectum through the anus.

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal or bowel cancer, originates from small growths (polyps) in the colon or rectum. You can have these growths for several years without having symptoms. Most polyps do not become cancerous. Some polyps can turn into cancer if they are not removed.

Click here to view French version of the image to the left.

Colon Cancer Prevention: The Home Screening Test

Colorectal cancer in its early stages does not have any signs or symptoms. The best way to find colorectal cancer early is by doing an FOBT once every 2 years. This simple and painless screening test looks for tiny drops of blood in your stool that may indicate colon cancer or polyps in your colon. The FOBT can see what you cannot see - hidden blood in the stool.

The FOBT (also known as a home screening test) test is done in the privacy of your own bathroom. To do the FOBT collect stool (poop) samples 3 days in a row. If you do not have daily bowel movements (poops), complete the test within seven days.

Vitamin C

ColonCheck does not require you to stop eating red meat or to stop taking your medications. Continue to eat your usual diet except for Vitamin C, as large amounts may hide blood that is in the stool.

For 3 days before and during the time you do the test, avoid Vitamin C in excess of 250 mg/day from foods, drinks and/or supplements. Some examples of foods high in Vitamin C are peppers, strawberries, fruit juices, oranges, and broccoli. Click here (pdf) to read a complete list of examples. Some multivitamins and iron pills contain Vitamin C so read the label.

 

The Home Screening Kit

  • ColonCheck invitation letter
  • reply form
  • instructions (also available in Chinese, Filipino, German, Punjabi and Vietnamese)
  • test card
  • 3 sticks
  • 3 sheets of paper to lay in the toilet bowl
  • mailing pouch for completed kit
  • postage pad return envelope (brown)

Home Screening Test Instruction Videos

The ColonCheck Home Screening Test Instructions (pdf) are available in these languages:

Who Should Get Checked?

Being regularly screened for colon cancer is important. You can feel well and not know that you have polyps or colon cancer in the early stages. The goal is to find polyps and remove them to prevent colon cancer from even starting.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any signs or symptoms of colon cancer such as:

  • a persistent change in bowel habits,
  • blood you can see in your stool, or
  • persistent abdominal discomfort and bloating,

 

ColonCheck Recommendations

AVERAGE RISK GUIDELINE

Most people age 50-74 should do an FOBT (home screening test) every 2 years.

You may be eligible to complete an FOBT at this time if:

  • you have not had a colonoscopy within the past 5 years,
  • you have not done an FOBT (home screening test) in the past 2 years, or
  • you do not have a personal or first degree (mother, father, sister, brother) family history of colon cancer. If you do have a personal or first degree family history, refer to increased risk guidelines below.
 
INCREASED RISK GUIDELINE

People are considered to be at increased risk for colon cancer if they have:

  • a personal history of:
    • previous diagnosis of colon or rectal cancer.
    • suspicion or diagnosis of hereditary syndromes related to colon cancer (Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis)
    • diagnosis of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • a first degree family history of parents, siblings or children who have been diagnosed with colon cancer at any age.

Speak with your healthcare provider about which screening test is best for you if you are at increased risk for colon cancer.

If you are unsure of your eligibility for ColonCheck, speak with your healthcare provider or contact ColonCheck.

Results & Follow-Up Testing

There are three possible home screening test results:

An abnormal result does not necessarily mean you have cancer. There are many possible reasons for blood in your stool. More testing will need to be done to see where the blood is coming from. A colonoscopy English | French (pdf) is usually recommended if you have an abnormal home screening test result. Repeating a home screening test after a positive result is not recommended. A positive result needs further investigation, regardless of the reason.

Colonoscopy

Benefits & Potential Harms of Colon Cancer Screening

It important to weigh the benefits and potential harms to make an informed decision about colorectal cancer screening. No screening test is perfect.

Benefits

  • The test is safe, simple, and painless.
  • The test is done in the privacy of your own home.
  • Colon cancer screening and recommended follow-up testing can find polyps or colon cancer in its early stages when treatment is most effective.
  • Removing polyps can prevent cancer from developing.
  • Research has shown that screening with FOBT can reduce deaths from colon cancer by up to 25%.

Potential Harms

  • False positive results (test result is abnormal when everything is actually normal)
  • False negative results (test result comes back as normal when really there is an abnormality).
  • Some polyps and colon cancers do not bleed. Therefore, the FOBT will not find all polyps or cancer.
  • Completing an FOBT has little risk or harm. The follow-up test for an abnormal  FOBTest result is a colonoscopy English | French (pdf) .
    • A colonoscopy is the most effective way to diagnose colon cancer, and can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.
    • Bleeding may occur after biopsies or removal of a polyp. In rare cases, you may need to receive blood or require surgery to repair a hole in the colon. In very rare cases, people have died.

How Do I Get Checked?

ColonCheck recommends most people age 50-74 do a home screening test every 2 years.

Request an FOBT home screening kit from ColonCheck in one of three ways:

  1. complete the form below,
  2. phone at 1-855-95-CHECK, or
  3. ask your healthcare provider.

If you choose to complete the form below, be sure the information matches your Manitoba Health Card (e.g. full name, not short version) content.

Birthdate:

All fields marked with an asterisk (*) are mandatory.
 

Screening for Other Cancers

To learn more about screening for cancers other than breast, cervical, or colorectal, click here.