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Now is not the time to put off your colon cancer screening

Dr. Steven Fox from Mercy Health Physician Partners West Michigan Gastroenterology office in Muskegon said early detection is the best protection from colon cancer

Colon cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, yet also one of the most treatable, if it is found early. 

Dr. Steven Fox from Mercy Health Physician Partners West Michigan Gastroenterology office in Muskegon said early detection is the best protection from colon cancer. 

The American Cancer Society now recommends those with an average risk level start screening at 45, earlier than the prior recommendation of age 50. 

Dr. Fox said it’s important to discuss individual risk level with your provider and follow their recommendation based on your personal health and risk level. 

Dr. Fox said, overall the rate of colon cancer is decreasing, due in part to screening. However, he said there has been an increase in younger patients, which is one of the reasons that the ACS is now recommending starting at the age of 45. 

Additionally, Dr. Fox said, the African American population is at higher risk than the general population and this also plays into the new recommendation. 

One thing I would like to point out is that not all insurance companies will pay for screening starting at age 45 so it’s important to check with your insurance company,” said Fox.

According to Dr. Fox, several factors may increase a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. Age (50 years and older), obesity, physical inactivity, a diet high in red or processed meat, alcohol consumption, long-term smoking, very low intake of fruits and vegetables, a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, and certain inherited genetic conditions are a few of these risk factors.

As for the screening, Dr. Fox advised, “relax, it's easier than you think.” He said, “there is one day of prep to empty your system, and the day of the screening is actually pretty easy.” 

The procedure takes less than an hour, during which the patient is completely asleep. There are also screenings that can be sent to your home that you can send back if your provider recommends one of those.

When it comes to bowel prep, Fox said he has done one himself. He said, typically patients are on a clear liquid diet for the day prior, and then in the evening prior to the procedure the patients will drink the bowel prep. 

According to Fox, current literature suggests that a split dose does a better job at cleaning the bowel. That entails drinking a small amount of prep in the morning prior to the procedure. Fox said the bowel prep really doesn’t taste that bad and the newer preps are very gentle on the body as compared to the older ones. 

Fox said that a physician’s order is required for a colonoscopy. If you don’t have a primary care physician, you can find one using the Find a Doctor search at www.MercyHealth.com.

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