An investigation is underway into a recent increase in positive screens of the fecal immunochemical test or FIT as it’s known.
Jim Cupples, the vice president, medical for the BC Agency for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, says Lab providers and BC Cancer’s Colon Screening Program says the increase suggests some borderline negative results are now testing positive.
He says the agency is working with its partners including BC Cancer and the Ministry of Health to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
The issue has been identified as a problem with the liquid solution, known as a reagent, used to test the fecal samples in the labs.
A new reagent has been in use since mid-December 2017, when testing resumed after a three-month suspension due to similar issues.
The new reagent was performing to expected standards until very recently.
Testing will continue, however, physicians and patients are being informed that there will be a higher percentage of patients than normal who are referred for follow up colonoscopy.
A positive FIT result is common and does not mean that the patient has cancer. On average, 15 per cent of patients screen positive and require further testing. It is expected that an additional 5 per cent of patients will now screen positive whereas previously they would have had a borderline negative result.
“We are working diligently with our partners on a long-term resolution that will ensure British Columbians are able to continue to have trust and confidence in this very important early cancer screening tool,” Dr. Cupples added.
“We recognize that a testing suspension like we experienced in the fall, although temporary, may have caused concern or confusion for patients waiting for test results, or who recently received a referral for a FIT,” said Dr. John Spinelli, the vice-president of population oncology at BC Cancer.
“Laboratory providers, the Ministry of Health and the Colon Screening Program strongly believe that the best course is to continue with FIT so that no one in need of colonoscopy is missed,” said Dr. Spinelli.
BC Laboratories, BC Cancer and the Ministry of Health are actively exploring all options to address this situation as quickly as possible.