07/08/2013 09:59 EDT | Updated 09/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Colon cancer screening program facing waitlists, delays

A province-wide expansion of a self-screening program for colon cancer underway on Vancouver Island may have to be curtailed because of a backlog in follow-up tests.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority was the first regional health authority to implement the provincial-government program for self-screening.

The Fecal Immunochemical Test, or FIT, allows people between the ages of 50 and 75 to mail in stool samples to health authorities to screen for colorectal cancer, which is the second highest cause of cancer deaths in B.C.

The FIT test allows for screening of microscopic amounts of blood in stool; if blood is detected, a colonoscopy is in order.

But in Victoria, referrals for follow-up tests have tripled since April, when the self-screening program was introduced and that's led to a four-month long wait list when the standard should be two months.

B.C.'s Minister of Health Terry Lake says that's a concern, and it could delay the expansion of the self-screening program to other health authorities.

"This is why we wanted to do it in one health authority first, before rolling it out to the rest of the province, so we know what the challenges would be," said Lake.

Lake says his staff is consulting with the Vancouver Island Health Authority to find ways to reduce the backlog.