Dr. Eshwar Kumar, co-CEO New Brunswick Cancer Network

Dr. Eshwar Kumar, co-CEO of the New Brunswick Cancer Network, says the tests will launch in the Saint John area early next year and be rolled out across the rest of the province within 18 months. (CBC)

The New Brunswick government is getting ready to roll out a new home-based colorectal screening program early next year.

Certain people between the ages of 50 and 74, who face an average risk of colon cancer, will be able to do a test at home, which will determine if any further testing is needed.

"Over the course of time, we expect that the number of colonoscopies that are being done as first line screening will decrease," said Dr. Eshwar Kumar, the co-chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Cancer Network.

"A good screening program is something that will change the natural history of the disease and it will also be cost effective and colorectal cancer screening I think is a good example of that."

Colonoscopies are more invasive and expensive, he said.

The province first talked about an at-home test kit back in 2009, but officials say it took a lot of planning and time to develop the technology.

Kumar says the test was picked for its sensitivity and accuracy.

They will be sent to a lab in Campbellton for processing.

Anne McTiernan-Gamble, chief executive officer of the Canadian Cancer Society in New Brunswick, says screening saves lives.

Colorectal cancer accounts for 13 per cent of all cancers in Canada, she said.

"In New Brunswick, that would be 600 cancers this year," said McTiernan-Gamble. "It's the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada."

The program is expected to launch in the Saint John area first and take 12 to 18 months to roll out across the rest of the province.