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Québec Colorectal Screening Program

Home > Topics > Public health > Colorectal Screening (PQDCCR)

Cancer screening is used to check for cancer in the absence of symptoms. Early detection of the illness increases the likelihood of successful treatment. Screening can be done during a visit to the doctor or as part of an organized program.

Québec Colorectal Screening Program

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Québec. It was estimated that in 2010 approximately 2,500 people would die from this type of cancer. For this reason, the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) is working closely with a number of experts to plan the introduction of a colorectal screening program that will meet the highest standards of quality and accessibility.

Once the program is in place, people in the target group will receive a letter inviting them to take part in the screening program. Depending on the results of the screening test, they will receive the appropriate followup.

Targeted Individuals

Once implemented, the program will target people age 50 to 74. They will be invited to undergo a screening test every two years.

The program will be phased in gradually throughout Québec. However, people in or outside the above age group can be screened even before the program is in place. For this they should consult their doctor for information.

Screening Test

The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is used to screen for colorectal cancer. It involves laboratory testing of a stool sample to detect the presence of blood invisible to the naked eye. If blood is present (a positive test), the person will be directed to a colonoscopy service for an examination. During colonoscopy the interior of the intestine is examined to confirm whether cancer or precancerous lesions are present.


Screening can reduce the number of deaths due to this cancer and reassure people who test negative (absence of blood in the stool sample).


When the test is positif, other examinations are required, which may lead to complications or cause stress.

Limitations of the Test

People may develop colorectal cancer even though they undergo the test. They should be well-informed about the advantages, disadvantages, and limitations of the screening before agreeing to participate.

Government Actions

The colorectal cancer screening program will be phased in gradually throughout Québec once all these preliminary steps are completed.

In accordance with the recommendations of Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), MSSS will implement the program in two phases using demonstration projects.

Phase 1

Develop and test measures that meet the following requirements:

  • Ensure that colonoscopies are available to all those who require one (individuals with symptoms, those who have cancer, are at high risk of developing one, or have tested positive on a screening test)
  • Ensure compliance with clinical quality and performance standards, particularly for colonoscopies, within a medically appropriate time frame

Phase 2

Evaluate the implementation of the terms of reference of the screening program

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