Islanders with abnormal results from fecal screening have long waits for colonoscopy. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)

Prince Edward Islanders are on average waiting twice as long as they should be for a colonoscopy, the test used to detect colorectal cancer, says Health PEI.

The province started a successful home screening test for colorectal cancer a few years ago, but patients are suffering from the very success of that program. Colonoscopies prompted by abnormal results from those tests have pushed up demand, leading to wait times that average 17 weeks.

National guidelines say that wait should never be more than eight weeks.

"As soon as you get results that are abnormal there's obviously a worry that starts. So we want to make sure that we're servicing patients in a timely fashion," said Marla Delaney, program coordinator for Health PEI.

"The disease progression wouldn't be happening that fast. It is a slow-growing cancer. But it's all about making sure that the patient has the comfort they need and gets the access to the treatment as soon as possible that could be life-saving."

Delaney said the province hired a new general surgeon and a gastroenterologist last year, which should improve wait times.

Health PEI is also reviewing its screening guidelines to prevent doctors from ordering colonoscopies when home screening could be used instead.