Vancouver — Fecal immunochemical testing, or FIT, part of the early screening process for colon cancer, resumes following a temporary suspension.
Testing was suspended in October 2017 after a manufacturer problem was identified with the liquid solution, also known as a reagent, used to test the FIT samples.
"We worked closely with partners to ensure the safe resumption of testing for all British Columbians," says Health Minister Adrian Dix. "Making sure people have access to FIT helps to detect the warning signs of colon cancer as early as possible. I encourage everyone eligible for FIT to get tested."
FIT is a routine screening test recommended for men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 and is designed for people who are considered at average risk of colon cancer. It detects blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of colon cancer. Patients with abnormal test results are referred for a follow-up colonoscopy.
"We are pleased to say we have resumed FIT for all British Columbians," says Dr. John Spinelli, VP of Population Oncology at BC Cancer. "In addition to laboratories' new quality checks, BC Cancer will continue monitoring for system-wide performance changes, which had led us to the problem initially."
Laboratory providers worked closely with the manufacturer to resolve the quality control concerns with the reagent. New batches of reagent have been approved for use following an extensive testing and quality assurance process. Laboratory providers have also set up additional quality checks to monitor test performance to prevent similar problems in the future.
The Colon Screening Program along with laboratory providers and health authority partners have a coordinated plan to notify patients about the resumption of testing, first addressing those patients for whom testing was delayed.
Advice for patients:
- Patients with existing FIT requisitions from their health care provider can bring their requisition to the laboratory to receive their FIT kit.
- Patients who could not pick up a FIT kit or those who completed FIT but did not receive a result due to the FIT suspension may be contacted by their laboratory provider. Each laboratory will determine the most appropriate approach for contacting their patients. Most laboratories are considering giving notice with instructions to patients by mail or telephone.
- Every effort will be made to contact patients. If not contacted by the end of January 2018, patients will need to return to their health care provider to obtain a requisition for a FIT kit.
As we reinstate screening there may be modest delays in providing FIT results due to increased volume during the initial re-introduction of FIT. But, this should return to normal in a few weeks.
FIT is designed for people who are considered at average risk of colon cancer. Patients with a family history of colon cancer or with symptoms that may indicate cancer were not affected by this test suspension. Anyone at high risk of colon cancer due to a strong family history or personal history of adenomas continued to be referred directly to the Colon Screening Program for colonoscopy.
Visit screeningbc.ca/colon to learn more about the resumption of FIT testing and to review our frequently asked questions.
BC Cancer, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.ca or follow us on Twitter @BCCancer.
The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.
For more information or to arrange an interview:
Communications Officer, BC Cancer
Provincial Health Services Authority
PHSA media line: 778-867-7472