Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in Ontario for both men and women, but it is 90% curable when caught early through cancer screening. There are no physical signs or symptoms during the early stages of the disease which is why it is important to get screened.

There is a province-wide colorectal cancer screening program called ColonCancerCheck that encourages all adults aged 50 years and older to get screened for colorectal cancer.

Early Detection - The Path to a Good Life

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy

Cancer screening saves lives. Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy knows this firsthand as a colorectal cancer survivor himself. Through routine cancer screening, his cancer was found early so he could go on to live a Good Life. This informative video is a call to action for everyone to take responsibility for their health by getting screened for cancer.

Click here to view 'The Path to a Good Life' video

When should I be screened for colorectal cancer?

Men and women, who are at average risk, should start screening for colorectal cancer at age 50 using a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) kit. Average risk means that you don’t have any symptoms and you don’t have a first degree family history of colorectal cancer.

If you do have a first degree family history, that is a parent, sibling, or child who has or has had colorectal cancer, then you should be screened using colonoscopy at age 50 or ten years prior to your family member’s age at diagnosis. For example, if your family member was 55 years when they were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, then you should talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about having a colonoscopy at age 45 years.

How do I screen for colorectal cancer?

There are different ways to screen for colorectal cancer, but ColonCancerCheck recommends two primary ways:

  1. Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

The FOBT is a simple test that can be done in the privacy of your own home. It tests for blood in your stool, which may be a sign of colorectal cancer. To complete the test you need to provide three stool samples over a 10-day time period. Once this is done, you can mail the kit in a postage-paid, addressed envelope to a laboratory for analysis.

This screening test is recommended for adults who have no first degree family history of colorectal cancer and are 50 years of age or older.

Ontario’s organized colorectal cancer screening program uses the ColonCancerCheck FOBT kit which comes with instructions. For more information and easy to understand instructions about completing your kit watch this video.

A ColonCancerCheck Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) kit.  To get an FOBT kit, you can:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner).
  • If you are a woman, 50 years of age or older, you can book an appointment on the Screen for Life Coach.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, you can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-888-797-0000
  1. Colonoscopy

The second way to get screened for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy a specialist inserts a long, flexible tube with a camera into the rectum and the colon which allows them to look for signs of cancer. If the specialist finds any polyps (abnormal growths) or other signs of cancer they will remove them for further testing.

You will be required to complete a preparation at home in advance of your visit in order to allow the specialist to see the walls of the colon and rectum clearly. This procedure requires a day visit to a local hospital.

This screening test is recommended for individuals with increased risk for colorectal cancer or who have had a positive FOBT result. You are considered to be at increased risk if you have a first-degree family member who has had colorectal cancer.


Where can you get a colonoscopy?

In Northwestern Ontario, a colonoscopy is performed in a hospital and requires a doctor’s referral. Speak to your healthcare provider about the colorectal cancer screening test that is best for you.

Access to a screening colonoscopy at the Health Sciences Centre can be directed through the Diagnostic Assessment Program (DAP). The DAP provides a single point of access for screening colonoscopy if you have a positive FOBT test or have first degree family history of colorectal cancer. Ask your doctor to refer you directly to the DAP where a Nurse Navigator will work with you to ensure you receive timely access to care.

For more information on the colorectal DAP click here.

Cancer Screening:

  • If caught early, there is a 90% chance of curing colorectal cancer.
  • Men and women, 50 years and older, should screen for colorectal cancer.
  • Cancer screening finds cancer earlier, when it is easier to treat.
  • The Screen for Life Coach offers breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening services.
  • We work with Cancer Care Ontario to offer organized cancer screening programs for adults in our region. Visit for more information.