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In Good Health: Colon Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and with recent changes, it might be time for you to get tested.

For today’s In Good Health, Whitney Amann has what doctors recommend and how McLaren Northern Michigan is making the process a little easier.

It’s the third most common cancer in men and women and the third leading cause of cancer related deaths.

“On average there’s about 150,000 people in the U.S. that are diagnosed with colon cancer each year,” said Dr. Kyle Robertson. “50,000 deaths due to colon cancer each year.”

But colon cancer is curable.

“It has about an 80% cure rate at five years, better if caught early but if it’s already advanced to the point where it’s going to other organs the cure rate is lower,” said Dr. Robertson.

There are things you can do to help prevent that diagnosis.

“We know that smoking increases the risk, overweight and obesity increases risk, heavy alcohol use increases risk and sedentary lifestyle,” he said.

Along with those lifestyle changes, getting tested at the right age is key.

“The age now is 45 for all adults,” he said. “That used to be 50 for adults and 45 years old for African Americans but now 45 for all adults.”

Your doctor might also recommend getting tested sooner, depending on your family history.

“If you have a history of colon cancer in a first degree family member so mom, dad, brothers, sisters then you should be screened early for colon cancer,” said Dr. Robertson.

Elizabeth Racignol decided to get her first colonoscopy after her annual physical.

“The older I get, the more people I know and the more people I know that have had colon cancer or a friend of a friend that has it and sometimes it’s not the best news and it could have been prevented,” said Elizabeth.

“When we do a colonoscopy we are mostly looking for polyps so that we can remove them but also we’re looking for diverticulosis, abnormal inflamed tissue like colitis, anything that does not look like normal, healthy tissue,” said Dr. Robertson.

“I was glad to get good test results and kind of ease the burden of having that on my mind is something wrong, you know? Is there something, you know, more terrible that can be wrong with me? And it’s just kind of was nice to know that everything’s ok for now,” said Elizabeth.

There are options when it comes to getting tested.

“The gold standard is a colonoscopy but there are other ways like CT colonography and stool testing that can be performed,” said Dr. Robertson.

For Colon Cancer Awareness Month, McLaren Northern Michigan is giving out free at home tests.

“The test that we are offering actually tests for blood in the stool and that is a really early sign of polyps that could be growing within the intestinal walls and that in the bowel and that is not any indicator of cancer but it is something that’s concerning and then it could be evaluated further to check out and see what’s going on. Tanya Janes, manager of community health.

This month serving as a reminder, any test is better than no test.

“The older I get, the more I realize I’m not invincible and neither is anyone else so why not get a screening that can possibly save your life?” said Elizabeth.

For information on how to get your free kit, click .

For more health tips, click .