Colorectal cancer screening
Screening for colorectal cancer decreases mortality from colorectal cancer. Early onset cancer requires less invasive treatment and causes less distress.
The Government amended the Government Decree on Screenings in August 2021. Screening for colorectal cancer will be made nationwide from 2022 onwards. Screening will be introduced among men and women aged 60–68 years. Screening will be expanded by age group, and it will cover the entire target population, i.e. all 56–74-year-olds in 2031. Screening will take place every two years.
The Finnish Cancer Registry supports municipalities in launching the new screening program. Opas suolistosyövän seulonnan järjestämiseksi (pdf in Finnish). Screening is carried out in accordance with the protocol and test recommendations of an expert group set up by the National Cancer Screening Steering Group Protocol for colorectal cancer screening and tests used in screening (pdf).
The screening test is done at home
The screening hub sends out invitations, analyses the samples and sends out the result letters. The screening test is an immunochemical feacal test (FIT) for finding hidden blood in stool. The screening kit is mailed to the invitees. The screening kit includes an invitation to screening, the screening test, information about screening and instructions on taking the sample. Only one sample is required and the invitees take it themselves at home and mail it to the screening hub. A returning envelope with postal fee already paid is enclosed with the kit.
Participating is free of charge for the invitee. The screening participant receives a written result of the screening test by mail. Those with a positive screening test confer additional examination with a screening nurse in their municipality of residence. Additional examination is usually a colonoscopy. The municipality organizes colonoscopies according to their standard procedure.
Colorectal cancer is worth screening
The European Union recommends the use of colorectal cancer screening by its member states (1). New screening programmes have been launched in the Netherlands and in other Nordic countries. The recently published report from the International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded colorectal cancer screening with a feacal test to decrease colorectal cancer mortality effectively (2, 3). Finnish Cancer Registry has planned the restarting screening programme in collaboration with Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and a group of clinical experts.
Colorectal cancer screening has been piloted in Finland in 2019-2021 in volunteering municipalities. During the first two pilot years, men and women aged 60–66 in the participating municipalities were invited to screen, and in 2021 all aged 60–68. The randomized colorectal cancer screening programme that ran in Finland in 2004-2016 covered nearly half of the population. For more information on the these programmes, please visit our website on research.
The main indicators of randomised colorectal cancer screening programme ongoing in years 2004-2016 can be found in screening statistics (in Finnish) (in Finnish).