Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.
With so many medical tests and procedures out there, it’s only normal to be confused about what they do and what they might reveal. But colon cancer is a silent killer that doesn’t hold back, so if you’re between the ages of 50 and 74, don't wait until you have symptoms to talk to a doctor or nurse practitioner about the FIT!
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that people aged 50 to 74, who are not at high risk for colorectal cancer, take the FIT every two years, as the risk of developing this disease increases considerably with age, making it important to start taking the test as of 50 years old.
The FIT is an at-home screening test that involves taking a very small stool (poop) sample. It’s an easy, quick, non-invasive and non-restrictive test that requires minimal stool handling. The instructions are easy to follow and you don’t have to fast or change your diet or medications before taking the test.
The first step is to talk to your family doctor or to a doctor/nurse practitioner from a walk-in clinic, either in person or during a virtual consultation. These health professionals can write you a prescription for this screening test. If you don’t have a family doctor, a health professional from a walk-in clinic can fill out the prescription and monitor your results.

Once you have the prescription, go to a specimen collection centre near you to get the screening test. Have your health insurance card on hand, and call before you go to make sure there are specimen collection kits available.
The FIT allows early detection of colorectal cancer by detecting traces of blood in the stool that are invisible to the naked eye. The test yields three possible results: negative, positive, or inconclusive. In the latter two cases, moving to the next step (a colonoscopy) is advised.

"The colon cancer screening test allows detecting pre-cancerous legions that can easily and safely be removed before they turn into cancer. If necessary, your case will be turned over to a qualified medical specialist who will take care of you from that point on,” explains Dr Mélanie Bélanger, President and Spokesperson of the Association des gastro-entérologues du Québec.

The colorectal cancer screening test detects blood in the stool that is invisible to the naked eye. If the FIT reveals traces of blood in the stool, i.e. a positive result, then the doctor will recommend further investigation in the form of a colonoscopy to establish a diagnosis.

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows seeing inside the large intestine to check for precancerous polyps.

The Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

  • No prior preparation needed.
  • A free test that can be obtained at a specimen collection centre with a prescription.
  • The test is done by the patient, at home, by collecting a small stool (poop) sample, with minimal handling required.
  • A fast and easy test to take in the comfort of your own home.

Diagnostic test (colonoscopy)

  • The patient takes a laxative on the day before and on the day of the procedure and must abstain from certain foods and medications.
  • The procedure is ordered by a doctor if the FIT result is positive or if a patient is high risk.
  • The procedure is performed by a gastroenterologist in-office or in hospital. Patients must be accompanied and cannot drive for 24 hours after the procedure.
  • While it carries some risks, this procedure is necessary when the FIT result is positive.

To learn more about the benefits and limitations of these tests, the Canadian Cancer Society encourages you to consult your family doctor or a doctor from a walk-in clinic.

You may be at higher risk if you have:

  • a parent, sibling or child with colorectal cancer
  • a personal history of colorectal cancer
  • a personal history of non-cancerous (benign) polyps in the colon or rectum
  • inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • inherited conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (also called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC)
  • signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer

Talk to your doctor about your risk. If you are at higher risk, you may need a personal plan for testing.

If you have symptoms, consult your family doctor or a doctor from a walk-in clinic as soon as possible.
Since the Canadian Cancer Society’s recommendations concern asymptomatic people between the ages of 50 and 74 who are not at high risk for colorectal cancer, we encourage you to consult your family doctor or a doctor/nurse practitioner from a walk-in clinic.

For any other questions, contact the Canadian Cancer Society by email or by phone at 1888 9393333.
The Canadian Cancer Society urges the Quebec government to quickly implement a structured colorectal cancer screening program. An organized program will mean that every Quebecer between the ages of 50 and 74 would receive a personalized letter acting like a prescription. More than two million people could get tested without having to see a family doctor or a nurse practitioner.

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For more information, contact the Canadian Cancer Society by email or by phone at 1 888 939-3333.