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Same place, new test: Ontario launches a new test to check for colon cancer

June 24, 2019

6 min read

The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is Ontario’s recommended screening test for people at average risk for colon cancer

Getting checked for colon cancer in Ontario is now easier with the fecal immunochemical test (FIT). FIT is available freely across the province through Cancer Care Ontario’s organized colon cancer screening program, ColonCancerCheck.

Cancer Care Ontario recommends that people who have no symptoms and are at average risk for colon cancer get checked using FIT every two years. Someone is at average risk for colon cancer if they are 50 to 74 years old with no first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister or child) who has been diagnosed with colon cancer.

FIT is a simple, safe and accurate at-home test that checks someone’s stool (poop) for tiny amounts of blood, which could be caused by colon cancer and/or pre-cancerous polyps (growths in the colon or rectum that can turn into cancer over time).

Cancer Care Ontario no longer recommends the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) for people at average risk of colon cancer. Although there is high-quality scientific evidence to support getting checked with FOBT, FIT offers several advantages:

  • FIT is a more sensitive screening test, which means it is better at detecting colon cancer and some pre-cancerous polyps;
  • FIT is more user-friendly because the collection device is easy to use and reduces the amount of contact people have with their stool when collecting it;
  • Only one stool sample is needed with FIT; and
  • When completing FIT, there are no medication or dietary restrictions (including vitamin C).

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. It is estimated that in 2018, about 11,595 people in Ontario were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and about 3,359 people in Ontario died from the disease.[1]Reference 1Close referenceCancer Care Ontario. Ontario Cancer Statistics 2018 Report. Toronto, ON: Cancer Care Ontario; 2018 Getting checked for colorectal cancer is the best way to find the disease early, when it is easier to treat.

People ages 50 to 74 can discuss their eligibility for ColonCancerCheck FIT screening with their family doctor or nurse practitioner. Anyone without a family doctor or nurse practitioner can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213 or visit a mobile screening coach, where coaches are available. 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 completed by the participant, the FIT can be mailed back to the lab or dropped off at a LifeLabs Patient Service Centre.

Eligible people in Ontario will continue to receive letters inviting them to get screened, tell them about their test results, let them know if they need to get more tests done and remind them when it is time to be screened again.

For more information on colon cancer screening in Ontario, visit


"Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario. If detected early, colon cancer is 90 per cent curable. Our government is proud to support the transition to the fecal immunochemical test and increasing colon cancer screening across the province."
— Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

"Cancer Care Ontario is committed to using the best available evidence to guide cancer screening practices. It is time to switch to the fecal immunochemical test (FIT)."
— Dr. Linda Rabeneck, Vice-President, Prevention and Cancer Control, Cancer Care Ontario

"Research has shown that people prefer screening with the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) over the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which leads to increases in colon cancer screening participation when FIT is used. Getting screened is the best way to find colon cancer early, when it is easier to treat. When colon cancer is caught early, nine out of 10 people with the disease can be cured. If you have colon cancer and do not get screened, you may miss the chance for early and more effective treatment. To get the most benefit from colon cancer screening with FIT, people ages 50 to 74 should participate in screening every two years."
— Dr. Catherine Dubé, Clinical Lead, ColonCancerCheck, Cancer Care Ontario