10/17/2013 12:24 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Nova Scotia resumes colon cancer screening kit program after problems fixed

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia has resumed its mailout of home screening kits for colon cancer, seven months after the program was suspended because technicians detected unusually high rates of abnormal test results.

Dr. Bernard Badley, medical director of the province's colon cancer prevention program, says the manufacturer has given assurances that it fixed the device and the screening kits are working as they should.

When it announced the suspension of the program in May, the government said a monitoring system that tracks the kits discovered positive test results had doubled.

At the time, Badley said the manufacturer determined that the chemical agent used to detect elevated levels of blood in samples was too sensitive.

Before the problem was detected, about four or five people out of every 100 who took the test were found to have an abnormal amount of blood in their stool sample, on average.

But the number of abnormal results later doubled to about 10 out of 100, causing Badley to examine his program's processes and then to contact the manufacturer.

In a news release issued Thursday, Badley said they will continue to monitor the results closely to ensure the modified device meets the program's standards.

"We realize some people may be concerned about having to wait a few extra months for a home screening kit," said Dr. Badley. "However, since it may take up to a dozen years for a small growth in the colon to turn into cancer, a delay of a few months in completing the test should not be a cause for concern. "

The screening tests, which were introduced in the province about four years ago, look for hidden blood in stool, which might be a sign of cancer.

The home tests go out to people between the age of 50 and 74 and it's recommended the test be done every two years. The province has said about 2,000 kits would normally go out each week and about 30 per cent of those are returned.

The program has identified more than 2,400 people with pre-cancers or cancer.

"There is no doubt the program is saving lives," said Badley.