In Michigan, 4,684 individuals were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2008, and 1,833 individuals died from the disease in 2009. During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is encouraging Michigan residents to talk with their health care provider about colorectal cancer screening.
“Regular screening, beginning at age 50, is important in preventing colorectal cancer. More than 90 percent of the new cases of colorectal cancer are found in adults over 50 years of age and if detected early, survival rates are improved,” said Danielle Kim Turgeon, MD, gastroenterologist and associate professor of internal medicine at University of Michigan Health System and also the chair of the Michigan Colorectal Cancer Early Detection Program Medical Advisory Committee.
Based upon scientific recommendations, men and women age 50 years and older who are at average risk for colorectal cancer, have many options for colorectal cancer screening. Screening should begin at age 50, or sooner if there is a family history of colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps. MDCH recommends speaking with your health care provider about what colorectal cancer screening option may be best for you.
Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer. Some screening tests can find polyps and remove them before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when the chance of being cured is good. At the disease’s earliest stages, there are virtually no symptoms. As colorectal cancer progresses to the later stages, changes in bowel movement patterns, bleeding, and abdominal discomfort are more likely to occur.
Health disparities exist with colorectal cancer as they do in other cancers. The incidence of colorectal cancer is higher among African Americans compared to Caucasians. Furthermore, African-Americans are more likely than Caucasians to die from colorectal cancer. Knowing about family history in conjunction with higher risk factors such as this is critical to early detection and prevention.
MDCH has implemented the Michigan Colorectal Cancer Early Detection Program (MCRCEDP) through funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The MCRCEDP provides outreach and colorectal cancer education, individualized risk assessment and screening to eligible 50-64 year old Michigan residents living in 38 counties.
For more information about colorectal cancer and the MCRCEDP, visit www.michigan.gov/cancer.