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Colorectal Screening

National Colorectal Cancer Screening Programme


What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a type of malignant tumour that occurs in the large intestine. Benign tumors of the colon are usually polyps,over time, polyps can develop into cancer. 

Why was the Colorectal Cancer Screening Programme set up?
Colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in Malta, and around 110 people die each year from the disease in the Maltese islands. It can be treated successfully if detected in its early stages. In fact, colorectal screening can detect colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it is easier to treat. It can also detect and treat polyps (small growths in the intestine) which can turn into cancer over time.

The Programme was phased in gradually to help ensure that health services, such as colonoscopy and treatment services can meet any increased demand. The screening programme is increasing to accommodate more clients.

When am I eligible for colorectal cancer screening?
Research shows that the risk of colorectal carcinoma increases after the age of 50. Colorectal Cancer Screening is currently offerred to all individuals who are between 56 to 70 years of age. Persons in this age group are  automatically invited to do a home-testing kit FIT every 2 years. 

What are the potential benefits and risks of colorectal cancer screening?
Getting regular check-ups and colon cancer screening is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer. Finding and removing colon polyps helps prevent colon cancer. In addition, colon cancer screening helps find cancer early, making a cure more likely. 

No screening test is 100% reliable. There is a chance that cancer could be missed, meaning you might be falsely reassured. There's also a small risk that the colonoscopy and some of the tests you might have if screening finds something unusual could damage your bowel, but this is rare.

There are no risks to your health from the home testing kit.

What does the FIT screening test involve
A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person does not have symptoms. You will receive an informative booklet provide you with an easy-to-follow set of instructions. You can find the full set of instructions here​.

Is there anything I need to do to prepare for the FIT test?
The FIT does not require any special preparation, but there are some conditions that could affect the results. You should not use the FIT if you:
  • Have active bleeding from haemorrhoids or anal fissure
  • Have blood in your urine
  • Are a woman having your menstrual period or during the three days after the end of your periodToilet cleaners may affect test results and should be removed before using the FIT.

My FIT test results are out. What happens next?
Participants with a positive FIT result will be contacted and advised to discuss the result with the specialist staff at the Screening Centre. These will generally refer them for further investigations, usually a colonoscopy.

What does colonoscopy involve?
A colonoscopy allows a doctor to look inside the entire rectum and colon whilst sedated. An instrument called a colonoscope is inserted into the large intestine through your back passage. The colonoscope is a long, flexible tube with a bright light at the end of it to obtain a clear view of the lining of your bowel. The procedure takes 30 to 40 minutes. 

What do I need to do to prepare for my colonoscopy?
Preparing for a colonoscopy can be uncomfortable or inconvenient, but it's necessary for the test to be effective. 
Before having your colonoscopy, on the day before your test, you will be asked to follow a special diet and take a laxative. These will help empty your bowel. It is important that your bowel is empty so that we get a good clear view of it when we do the colonoscopy. 

Foreign patients need to follow the basic entitlement guidelines outlined in the following table and provide the necessary documentation when requested.

Status Proof of NI Contributions (payslip or inland revunue receipt Reciprocal Heath Agreement Card Certificate of Entitlement Marriage Certificate Birth Certificate Important notes
If you're working in Malta
If you're British and living in Malta Either one of the three documents
If you're married to a Maltese
If you're married to someone paying NI Both Documents


Who to contact if something happens before my colonoscopy?
Contact the Screening Unit on 21227470 or 21227471 between 7.30am and 14.30pm before your appointment in such cases and they will coordinate communications with the colonoscopy coordinator on your behalf.

When will I know my colonoscopy results? What happens next?
Your designated General Practitioner and yourself will receive a copy of your results via post. If the test results are within normal range, you will be given a different set of instructions dependent on the findings of the colonoscopy. 

On the other hand, if you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, a fast-track process will start off where you will be referred to Mater Dei Hospital or Gozo General Hospital for specialised care. The colorectal screening team will liaise with the hospital team to pass on details of your case and arrange an urgent follow-up appointment.

I’ve noticed some abnormal symptoms and am concerned about the possibility of colorectal cancer. What should I do?
The Colorectal Screening Programme is a screening service that offers scheduled appointments for individuals who are well and does not offer a walk-in service for gastrointestinal symptoms. If you have noticed anything unusual that you are concerned about do not wait for your screening appointment, speak to your family doctor. 

Symptoms to look out for:
  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Change in bowel habit
  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
  • Losing weight and you don’t know why

I have a strong family history of colorectal cancer and am concerned about my risk of getting colorectal cancer. What should I do?
If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than average. If you think you are at increased risk, speak to your family doctor about:
  • When to begin screening.
  • Which test is right for you.
  • How often to get tested.

Furthermore, if you have a history of inflammatory bowel disease or familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer, make sure you discuss your options with your GP.

I fall within the age group eligible for colorectal cancer screening, but I have not received an invitation. What should I do?
If you fall within the age group eligible for screening (56 to 70 years of age) but have not received a screening invitation, you can call the Screening Centre for a test kit.

Who can I contact if I have any questions about colorectal cancer screening?
If you have any questions or difficulties regarding colorectal cancer screening, one may contact the Screening Centre on 
Telephone: 2122 7470/1 between 7.30am – 14.30pm
Address:  17, Lascaris Wharf, Valletta, VLT 1921.





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