Colon Cancer Frequently Asked Questions

How common is colon cancer?
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer among Nova Scotia men and women. About 1,000 Nova Scotians will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year

How do most colon cancers start?
Most colon cancers start as small growths in the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps, which can bleed into the colon or rectum. Over time, some of these polyps turn into cancer.

Who is at risk of developing colon cancer?
Age is the greatest risk factor for developing colon cancer. Most people who are diagnosed with colon cancer are over the age of 50. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer among both Nova Scotia men and women.

What is the screening test and how does it work?
The home screening test, also known as the FIT (fecal immunochemical test), can be done in the privacy of your own home at a time that works for you. You don’t have to change your diet to do the test. Colon cancer starts as polyps (growths) in the small intestine. These polyps often leak small amounts of blood into the stool. The home screening test can find these small amounts of blood, which could be a sign of a pre-cancer or a cancer. If blood is found in the stool, a follow-up test called a colonoscopy will be needed to find out where the blood is coming from.
The home screening test can be done in the privacy of your own home at a time that works for you. You don’t have to change your diet to do the test.

How do people get a home screening kit?
All Nova Scotians, who have a MSI card and are between 50 and 74 years old,
will automatically receive a home screening test in the mail within a couple of weeks after their even birthdays (50, 52, 54, …). There is no time limit to complete the test. People are encouraged to do the test at a time that works for them

How often do people need to do the home screening test?
People will automatically get a home screening test in the mail every two years. The test works best when it is done regularly every two years.


How can people lower their risk of getting colon cancer?
People can lower their risk for colon cancer by:
• Getting checked every two years by doing the screening test when it comes in the mail
• Eating a healthy diet high in fibre
• Limiting the amount of red and processed meats you eat
• Keeping a healthy weight
• Being active on a regular basis
• Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
• Not smoking or quitting if you do smoke
• Taking vitamin D supplements

What are the warning signs of colon cancer?
Colon cancer grows slowly and often has no warning signs until the cancer is more advanced. That’s why taking the home screening test (the FIT) is so important. Common signs of colon cancer include:
•Rectal bleeding, or any sign of blood after bowel movements.
•Lasting change in bowel habits such as:
oDiarrhea or constipation for more than a few weeks
oStools that are consistently more narrow than usual
oThe feeling that you aren’t completely emptying your bowel.
•Unexplained weight loss, tiredness or exhaustion.
If you have any of these warning signs of colon cancer, do not wait for a home screening test. Please talk to a doctor or health care provider.

The home screening test for colon cancer is saving lives. When you receive your home screening test in the mail, please complete it. It could save your life.

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