Do not wait for cancer to strike! Only half of the people invited to colorectal cancer screening actually take part in it

Colorectal cancer screenings

Colorectal cancer is an increasingly common disease, with nearly 1,000 people diagnosed in Estonia every year. Given that many new cases of cancer are still only detected at a late stage, the Health Insurance Fund stresses the importance of regularly participating in screenings to detect the disease at an early stage or before it develops. Still, only half of those invited to screening actually take part.

Today, the Health Insurance Fund launched an information campaign on colorectal cancer screening, inviting men and women aged 60–68 to undergo screening free of charge. ‘The screening can detect pre-cancerous changes before the disease and symptoms develop. With timely medical help, these changes can be treated successfully, saving the patient from a frightening diagnosis,’ explains Maria Suurna, service manager for screening of the Health Insurance Fund. According to current data from the National Institute for Health Development, 1.5% of screening participants in 2020 – nearly 600 people – were found to have cancerous changes. Only 0.3% of those screened were diagnosed with cancer. ‘For most people, taking part in screening therefore gives them the reassurance and knowledge that they are healthy,’ Suurna added.

‘One of the challenges of colorectal cancer screening is the low participation rate of men – according to our data, 59% of women participated in screening last year, but only 49% of men,’ said Ksenia Niglas, data analyst at the Health Insurance Fund. To reduce colorectal cancer morbidity and mortality, the participation rate should be at least 70%. Similarly to breast and cervical cancer screening, the coverage of colorectal cancer screening in Estonia remains below the recommended level.

Participation also varies by county. ‘Last year, the most exemplary participants were men and women living in Võru, Tartu, Hiiu, Põlva, Pärnu, and Lääne County, where 62%–66% of those invited to the screening took part. The participation rates of colorectal cancer screening were lowest in Ida-Viru, Valga, Harju, Viljandi, and Saare County, where coverage ranged from 47% to 53%,’ Niglas added.

Who and how can take part in colorectal cancer screening?

In Estonia, men and women aged 60–68 are invited to colorectal cancer screening every two years. This year, more than 80,000 insured and uninsured women and men born in 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961, and 1963 are invited to participate in screening. ‘As the invitation is valid until the end of the year, those who have not yet done so can still participate in the screening,’ recommended Maria Suurna, service manager for screening of the Health Insurance Fund.

To take part in screening, you will need to contact your family medicine centre and register to see a family nurse. At the appointment, you will be provided with a faecal occult blood test kit. A sample can be conveniently taken at home and then sent by post to the laboratory. The postage fee for sending the sample has been paid in advance. The Health Insurance Fund confirms that if a need arises for further tests or treatment, these costs are also covered for everyone, including people without health insurance.

The screening is a health survey intended primarily for healthy women and men without complaints or symptoms.

For more information about screening, please contact your family physician or the customer support of the Health Insurance Fund by writing to info [at] or by calling 669 6630. See also