HALIFAX -- After a six-month suspension, colon cancer home screening kits are back in the mail across Nova Scotia.

Mail-outs were suspended in March when endoscopy services were limited to emergency colonoscopies because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Home-screening kits test for trace amounts of blood in the colon. If blood is found, a screening colonoscopy is needed.

"Colonoscopies resumed the end of May, but we had a backlog of 1,600 Nova Scotians waiting for a screening colonoscopy that we needed to work through," said Dr. Don MacIntosh, medical director of the Colon Cancer Prevention Program. “Working through a backlog of 1,600 is not easy at any time, but working within public health protocols related to COVID-19 presented additional challenges."

Doctors say all Nova Scotians who were waiting for a screening colonoscopy have either had one or have an appointment.

Nova Scotia Health says it is now in a good position to resume the mail-out kits.

The program automatically mails home screening kits to Nova Scotians who are between 50 and 74 and who are registered with MSI every two years. 

"An individual born in November 1968, for example, can expect to receive a kit in November or December of this year," said Dr. MacIntosh. "Nova Scotians who were due to receive a kit between March and September this year will not automatically receive one. Instead, Nova Scotians in this category, who are interested in completing a home screening kit will be asked to call and request one. Those we do not hear from will automatically receive their next kit in 2022."

Individuals who have a screening test at home that has not expired may also complete it and send it to the lab. 

Since the screening program was introduced in 2009, program screening colonoscopies have identified more than 11,000 Nova Scotians with a cancer or a pre-cancer. 

Dr. MacIntosh encourages Nova Scotians to take the test when it comes in the mail.

"We would save more lives if more people did the test when it arrived in the mail," he said. "Today, only 34 per cent of Nova Scotians are doing the test. I encourage all Nova Scotians to do the test when they receive it. "

Nova Scotians who were due to receive a home screening kit between March and September this year may call 1-866-599-2267 to request one.

Learn more about colon cancer screening and the Colon Cancer Prevention Program.