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Prevention and Screening

Preventing Colorectal Cancer – What you can do

If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor or nurse practitioner at your next visit and you can discuss your screening options.

Colorectal cancer can be caused by family history or genes but also lifestyle. Consider these healthy choices and take some relatively simple steps to improve your overall health.

  1. Get moving – Even a small amount of regular exercise helps.
  2. Kick the habit – Butting out your cigarettes will not only help protect you from getting colorectal cancer, your lungs will thank you as well.
  3. Take your vitamins – Recent research has found that taking calcium and folic acid supplements daily over a long period of time, may reduce your chances of developing colorectal cancer.
  4. Watch your weight – Obesity is thought to increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer, particularly in women.
  5. Drink moderately – Reducing alcohol intake can lessen your chance of getting colorectal cancer.
  6. Know your family history – If a first degree relative (parent, sibling or child) had colorectal cancer you are at increased risk. Talk to your doctor about getting screened for colorectal cancer when you are 10 years younger than your relative was at the disease onset.
  7. Beginning at age 50, make colorectal cancer screening a part of your routine health checks. Link to Health Care Options)

Screening is Important!

Enough can’t be said about the importance of screening in preventing, detecting and curing colorectal cancer. Screening is the best way to stop colorectal cancer in its tracks.

If it is caught in its earliest stages there is a 90 per cent chance that you can be cured of colorectal cancer. Early detection also avoids more invasive forms of surgery, like the removal of portions of the colon.

How and When to Get Screened

The ColonCancerCheck program recommends that you get screened for colorectal cancer with an FOBT kit every two years if you are between the ages of 50 and 74 and are at average risk for colorectal cancer. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer in a first degree relative (parent, sibling or child) or have symptoms, the program recommends a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer.

Please talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about the best screening for you.


The  screening methods that are part of the ColonCancerCheck program are:

  1. Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

    This simple at-home test can detect the presence of blood in your stool. A positive FOBT test lets your doctor know that further follow up with a colonoscopy is needed, but does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. It is recommended that everyone between the ages of 50 and 74 should be screened with FOBT every two years. Need more information?
  2. The benefits of an FOBT as a screening tool:

    • It can be self-administered in the privacy of your home
    • It’s readily available
    • It’s less invasive than a colonoscopy
    • No preparation, minimal diet change
    • No pain, discomfort
  3. Colonoscopy

    A colonoscopy is performed in a hospital and is an examination of the lining of your rectum and colon using a long flexible tube with a camera on the end. The procedure can be somewhat uncomfortable, but it is highly recommended for individuals who are at increased risk, like those with a family history or those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease.

    There are some risks associated with having a colonoscopy such as perforation and internal bleeding. The preparation before a colonoscopy requires that your colon and rectum be thoroughly cleaned out, using a bowel preparation that begins the day before the procedure. An intravenous sedative is given just prior to the procedure. Because of this, you will need someone to accompany you to the procedure and you will need to take the remainder of the day off.

    Please note that no test is 100% accurate. If you have or develop any of the symptoms of colorectal cancer, or if your family history of colorectal cancer changes, it is important that you see your primary care provider.

For more information about ColonCancerCheck, call ServiceOntario INFOline at 1-866-410-5853.
Hours of operation : 8:30am - 5:00pm, Monday to Friday.
TTY 1-800-387-5559.
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Visit : Cancer Care Ontario