Reuters.com – The Canadian province of Ontario has one of the world’s highest rates of colorectal cancer, according to the provincial health ministry, and it’s the second deadliest cancer in the province. The disease has a 90-percent cure rate when caught during its early stages but because the cancer is often asymptomatic until it is further progressed.
The Ontario provincial government recently began promoting home fecal occult tests, a screening tool that tests for blood in the stool, an early but often missed symptom of colorectal cancer. A similar screening program introduced in parts of the UK halved the number of hospital admissions and deaths from colon cancer in those areas within five years, a study published in the journal Gut showed. And last week, researchers detailed in the British Medical Journal how a national Finnish colon cancer screening program involving fecal analysis caught 40 percent of colon cancers early.
Fecal occult tests can be self-administered at home. It involves collecting a small stool sample on three different days and testing for the presence of blood. Blood in the stool does not usually mean that you have cancer – only about 10 percent of people with a positive fecal occult test are later found to have colorectal cancer, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. But it is one of the symptoms, and the fecal occult test can detect the presence of blood before it’s visible to the eye.