Colon Cancer Prevention Program
Temporary suspension of mailing out home screening kits
Read the CCNS News Release for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the program being suspended?
As a result of routine monitoring, we recently noticed a change in the results of our home screening kit. More people were receiving an abnormal screening test result than before. Until recently, about 5 people out of 100 were getting an abnormal screening result. Now it’s about 10 people in 100 receiving an abnormal result.
After investigating the issue, we have confirmed that the problem is with a device used to process the tests and NOT the home screening test. Very small amounts of blood can normally be detected in the stool; the home screening test is designed to detect abnormal quantities of blood. The device used to test for blood in the stool recently became too sensitive and is testing positive in people who may be losing only normal amounts of blood. Until the product supplier has made the necessary corrections, has tested the product and Cancer Care Nova Scotia is confident that the product once again meets the requirements of the program, we will hold off on mailing out any more screening kits.
How was the problem identified?
The Colon Cancer Prevention Program was designed to be the best there is. When the program was launched four years ago, CCNS set up a system to monitor all of the important components of the program. The issue was identified through routine system monitoring.
How long is it being suspended for?
At this time we don’t know how long it will be before a new product is developed, has been tested and we are confident that it meets our requirements. Based on what we know now, we believe it may take about six months. We will update Nova Scotians if this timeline changes.
Is there a problem with the home screening kit?
There is no problem with the home screening kit. It is designed to find hidden blood in the stool, and it is doing just that. Already, the Program has identified more than 1,300 Nova Scotians with pre-cancers or cancer who had no warning signs or symptoms.
Are the abnormal screening test results issued by the program over the last few months considered to be “false positives”?
- No. The screening test is still finding that approximately 90% of people have normal test results and the positive (abnormal) tests in the others still means that they have abnormal levels of blood in the stool. Some of them are testing positive because the sensitivity of the test has changed and kits are testing positive at lower concentrations of blood than previously. However, this 10% includes all of those who would have tested positive with the original cutoff level, so it includes those who are at greatest risk of having a polyp or early cancer.
Isn’t it better to be picking up blood at lower levels (increased sensitivity)?
The screening test is designed to look for blood which may be a sign of a polyp or cancer. We want to make sure that our screening test identifies those people who would benefit the most from having a colonoscopy and to exclude those with the least chance of having a polyp or cancer.
I completed a test a few weeks ago and had to have a colonoscopy. Nothing was found. Does this mean I did not need this procedure?
The home screening test checks for small amounts of blood in the stool. The blood does not necessarily mean someone has cancer. It simply means a follow-up test called a colonoscopy is needed to understand if the blood is coming from the colon. In a number of cases other causes of bleeding were identified and are now being treated. Just because no polyp or cancer was found on colonoscopy does not mean you didn’t need the test to rule out that possibility.
I completed the test and had an abnormal test result. It was recommended that I have a colonoscopy. Considering this issue, should I go forward with the colonoscopy?
Yes, the home screening test checks for small amounts of blood in the stool and if your test was abnormal it means that blood was found in your stool. The blood does not necessarily mean someone has cancer. It simply means a follow-up test called a colonoscopy is needed to find out what may be causing the blood in your stool.
My birthday was in March and I haven’t gotten a home screening kit yet. When will I get one?
Generally, NS, aged 50-74 who have a valid MSI card, automatically receive a home screening kit in the mail shortly after their even birthday (50, 52, 54, etc..). The temporary suspension of the Colon Cancer Prevention Program means that it will be a few months before you receive your kit. We encourage you to complete the test when it does come in the mail because regular colon cancer screening has been shown to prevent cancer and find it early when treatment is most effective. If you have concerns or possible warning signs of colon cancer, you should speak with your doctor about the best test for you.
I received a home screening kit in the mail a while ago and didn’t complete it. Is it ok to complete now or should I wait for another kit?
Yes, anyone who has already received a home screening kit, but has not completed it, may choose to do so or they can hold on to the kit and complete it when we resume mailing out home screening kits.
If there is a problem with the device used to process the test why are you still encouraging me to take the test?
The home screening test is finding blood in the stool as it is designed to do. If you already have home screening test and have not yet completed it, you may complete it and send it off to the lab, or you may hold on to it and complete it when we resume mailing out home screening kits.
What should I do if I’m not comfortable in waiting for a home screening kit?
Colon cancer develops from certain kinds of polyps (growths) in the colon that can take up to a dozen years before developing into a cancer. In order to find these growths or early cancers before they cause symptoms, the Colon Cancer Prevention Program encourages testing every two years. For this reason, a brief delay in completing the home screening kit should not be a cause for concern.
Nova Scotians who are looking for more information about the Colon Cancer Prevention Program can call 1-866-599-2267. Anyone who has concerns or possible symptoms of colon cancer should talk with their family doctor about the tests that are most appropriate for them.
The Colon Cancer Prevention Program (CCPP) was developed by Cancer Care Nova Scotia with the goal of reducing the number of deaths from colon cancer in Nova Scotia. It is a screening program designed to help detect cancer and pre-cancerous growths in Nova Scotians aged 50-74. If found early, colon cancer is preventable and treatable.
The Program was phased in across the province and is now expanded to all District Health Authorities.
Over the next two years, all Nova Scotians aged 50-74 will be sent a colon cancer screening kit, which they can complete in the privacy of their own home.
Please see the Colon Cancer Screening FAQs for more detailed information.
Tout ce que vous devez savoir sur le dépistage du cancer du côlon.
Click here to learn more about building a colorectal cancer program.
Click here to learn about national standards and guidelines for colorectal cancer screening (Public Health Agency of Canada)
We now have a Colon Cancer Prevention Program fact sheet for primary care practitioners available for download.
If you have lost or misplaced your kit envelope, please mail your completed kit to:
SOUTH SHORE REGIONAL HOSPITAL
90 GLEN ALLAN DRIVE
BRIDGEWATER NS B4V 9Z9