Colon Cancer home screening kits back in the mail as program resumes after temporary suspension due to COVID-19

HALIFAX N.S. -- Home screening kits for colon cancer are back in the mail after a six-month program suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mail outs were suspended the middle of March when provincial endoscopy services were limited to emergency colonoscopies only as a result of COVID-19. 

“Colonoscopies resumed the end of May, but we had a backlog of 1,600 Nova Scotians waiting for a screening colonoscopy that we needed to work through,” said Dr. Don MacIntosh, medical director, Colon Cancer Prevention Program. 

A colonoscopy is the follow-up test recommended when someone is found to have trace amounts of blood in their colon. 

The home screening kit tests for trace amounts of blood in the colon. If trace amounts of blood are found, it does not mean the individual has cancer. It means that a follow-up test called a screening colonoscopy is needed to understand the reason for the blood.

“Working through a backlog of 1,600 is not easy at any time, but working within public health protocols related to COVID-19 presented additional challenges. Today, thanks to the combined efforts of Cancer Care Program leaders and the provincial endoscopy team,

Nova Scotians who were waiting for a program screening colonoscopy have either had one or have an appointment for one. As a result, we are in a good position to resume mailing out home screening kits.”

The program automatically mails home screening kits to Nova Scotians, who are between 50 and 74 and who are registered with MSI, every two years. 

The schedule for the mail out, which resumes today, coincides with an individual’s birthday. Nova Scotians born in an even year (eg: 1968) automatically receive their test in an even year close to their birthday (eg: 2020). 

Nova Scotians born in an odd year (ie: 1957), automatically receive their test in an odd year (2021). 

“An individual born in November 1968, for example, can expect to receive a kit in November or December of this year,” said Dr. MacIntosh. “Nova Scotians, who were due to receive a kit between March and September this year, will not automatically receive one. Instead, Nova Scotians in this category, who are interested in completing a home screening kit, will be asked to call and request one. Those we do not hear from will automatically receive their next kit in 2022.”

Individuals who have a screening test at home that has not expired may also complete it and send it to the lab. 

“The Colon Cancer Prevention Program is saving lives by preventing colon cancer and finding it at an earlier stage (through colonoscopy) when treatment is most effective,” said Dr. MacIntosh. 

Since the screening program was introduced in 2009, program screening colonoscopies have identified more than 11,000 Nova Scotians with a cancer or a pre-cancer. 

Dr. MacIntosh encourages Nova Scotians to take the test when it comes in the mail, “We would save more lives if more people did the test when it arrived in the mail. Today, only 34 per cent of Nova Scotians are doing the test. I encourage all Nova Scotians to do the test when they receive it.”

Nova Scotians who were due to receive a home screening kit between March and September this year may call 1-866-599-2267 to request one.

Learn more about colon cancer screening and the Colon Cancer Prevention Program

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Media contact: 
Provincial media line: 1-844-483-3344