Colon cancer screenings will begin in Estonia in July

Colon cancer is a common and serious disease, which develops during a long time frame. However it is possible to discover and treat it in its’ early stages prior to it developing into a serious disease. Screenings are a proven and effective method within a specific age group with the goal of preventing colon cancer or discovering it in its’ early stages. Because of this invitations for participation in colon cancer screenings will be sent out starting in July to insured people born in 1956. The target group will be formed from cancer screening registry information and the men and woman who belong to that group will be sent a check-up invite to their residential address on the registry and on the patient portal at In order to participate in a screening one does not need to wait for an invitation! People who belong to the target group can also turn to their family doctor and express a desire to participate in the screening. Participation in the screening is voluntary and is a service which is provided for the insured by the EHIF.

Why is a colon cancer screening necessary?

Colon cancer begins most often from polyps which develop into malignant tumors located in the colon. Most cases of colon cancer come as a result of the gradual process of cancer formation, beginning from benign polyps. Incidences of colon cancer in Estonia have considerably grown in the past decade- From 680 cases in the year 2000 to 924 in the year 2013. Observing the morbidity trend one can conclude that around 1000 people become ill with colon cancer every year in Estonia. The incidence rate of cancer is greatest among men and woman over the age of 70.Around a third of the cases of cancer have, upon discovery, from the ascending colon into other organs (liver, lymph nodes, lungs), in other words in a stage of distant metastases.  This makes the treatment options more intricate for both the patient and the doctor, which is why the early discovery of cancer is so vital.

The main risk factors of colon cancer are eating habits (specifically eating of red meat), previous existence of benign tumors in the colon, appearance of colon cancer in relatives, being overweight, and smoking. Therefore, vital to the prevention of this disease is an active lifestyle and a normal body weight.

Although the incidence rate is greatest among those over 70 years of age, the growth of risk begins at the age of 50. The development of cancer is in most cases one which is slow and stepped—estimating that pre-cancerous changes in the formation and development of cancer occur within the first 10-15 years. Additionally, the normal symptoms of colon cancer are absent in the early stages. Colon cancer causes complaints rather extensively in the gut wall of bowel. Keeping in mind the listed aspects a relatively long latency period for the early detection of cancer is provided. In turn In turn, the early detection and proper removal of a benign tumor holds off colon cancer formation. Cancer discovered in its’ early stages is possible to treat using sustainable methods and it enables better treatment results.

What does a screening consist of?

In order to diagnose colon cancer a stool test (fecal occult blood test) is carried out and if necessary (if blood is found in the stool) a colonoscopy.

Occult blood is bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract which is not known to the patient. Even healthy people excrete blood daily in bowel movements, the purposes of which can be different, but usually it occurs in such small quantities to result in a positive occult blood test. Bleeding caused by a tumor can be intermittent, making it necessary to test the stool on multiple occasions. Fecal occult blood tests have been widely used and are possible to perform at home. The test is simple, quick, and safe. If the test results are positive and occult blood from the test.

A colonoscopy is a colon screening, during which the colon is analyzed with a flexible tubular instrument equipped with a video camera, a colonscope. This enables the finding of any visible pathological changes in the colon. Polyps at last 5 centimeter in diameter must be removed upon discovery and the correct removal of polyps is extremely small. Colonoscopies are very important and quality screenings which give the most definitive answer about the possibility of the development of a disease.

Participation in a screening is harmless to your health

The main dangers of a screening are related to the preparation of the colonoscopy procedure. Side effects may include bloating and abdominal pain. Complications of the procedure are rare, only around 5% of patients.  The risk of colonoscopy heath damage is somewhat higher with ill and elderly patients. Estonia uses experienced colonoscopy physicians to manage the potential risks of the procedure. It is also prescribed that patients with a positive fecal occult blood test result visit their family physician who will assess the patient’s health prior to the colonoscopy

This year’s target group consists of insured 60 year old men and woman. In the following years one age group with be added every year resulting in screenings for 60-69 year olds every two years. For further instructions patients can consult with their family physician.

This year the target group of the screening is insured 60 year old men and woman. In order receive further directions after receiving of an invitation, please contact your family physician.


-This year those insured men and woman born in the year 1956 are expected to participate in a colon cancer screening.

-Invitations to participate in the screening will be sent on to the address of the patient registered on the population register and to the patient portal at

-For further information, contact your doctor.

- In order to participate in a screening one does not have to wait for an invitation. Those belonging to the target group can express a desire to participate in a screening to their family nurse or doctor themselves.