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What to Expect

Fecal immunochemical tests now available in labs throughout the province. Learn more here.

Your primary care provider registers you with the Colon Screening Program when he/she provides you with a lab requisition form to pick up your fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or refers you for colonoscopy.

Being registered with the program means that the program will mail you your FIT results and keep track of your screening progress to ensure quality and safety. The Colon Screening Program will also mail you a reminder when it is time to test again.


The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a test you can do at home. It detects blood in your stool (poop) which can be a sign of pre-cancer. To complete the test:

  1. Talk to your health care provider and ask for a FIT. If you are eligible for screening, your health care provider will give you an order form for a free FIT kit.
  2. Take your order form to a designated lab, and pick up your test kit. Visit Laboratory Locations for a list of participating labs.
  3. Take the test at home by following the instructions provided in the test kit. No special preparation is needed. You can continue to eat your usual foods and take your medications.
  4. Drop your sample off at the lab. Your sample must be submitted to the lab within 7 days of taking the test.
  5. Your result will be sent to you, your health care provider and BC Cancer.
  6. If you have an abnormal result, you will be referred to the patient coordinator for your community. An abnormal result does not mean that you have cancer. It means that blood was found in your stool. The patient coordinator will speak with you about your test result and make recommendations for follow up testing. Colonoscopy is usually recommended following an abnormal FIT result.
For more information about the FIT, watch this animated video below (also available in Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi).

Things to know

  • The procedure is performed by a colonoscopist and usually lasts 20 to 45 minutes.
  • You will be closely monitored before, during and after the procedure.
  • It is normal throughout the procedure to feel slight pressure or experience cramps.

Before the colonoscopy

  • Expect to be at the hospital for 2 to 3 hours.
  • You will be asked to change into a gown.
  • A nurse will complete your admission history and measure your vital signs.
  • You will be asked to provide a list of your medications.
  • A nurse will start an intravenous (IV) to administer sedation and pain medication.

During the colonoscopy

  1. A colonoscopist inserts the colonoscope into the rectum and advances it along the length of the colon.
  2. Air is sent through the colonoscope to expand the colon for better viewing.
  3. Images of the lining of the rectum and colon are sent to a video monitor where the colonoscopist will look for anything unusual, like a polyp. A polyp is a small growth of tissue on the wall of the intestine.
  4. Polyps can grow very slowly, and some can become cancerous. It may be necessary to take a sample (biopsy) or remove the polyp (polypectomy). This is painless.
  5. The biopsy or polyp is then sent to a lab for analysis.

After the colonoscopy

  • Have an adult accompany you home. You cannot drive until the following day.
  • You may be sleepy after you arrive home from the procedure. It is recommended that you do not operate equipment, sign legal papers or drink alcohol until the following day.
  • You will be able to resume your regular diet and medications after your colonoscopy, unless otherwise directed by your patient coordinator or colonoscopist.
  • The air inside your colon may cause you to feel bloated and/or have cramping after the procedure. It is important to relax and pass the air as soon as possible. If this discomfort increases or is unrelieved, go to the emergency department and advise them that you had a colonoscopy.
For more information about what to expect from colonoscopy, watch this animated video (also available in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Punjabi).
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SOURCE: What to Expect ( )
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