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Middle age can be defined a lot of different ways – but one telltale sign that we’ve made it is when our primary care provider suggests a colonoscopy.

The American Cancer Society recommends one start getting a routine screening at age 45.

During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, Munson Healthcare is putting the spotlight on the need to be aware of any symptoms that could indicate issues in the digestive tract that could lead to a cancer diagnosis.

Statistics show that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the nation and nearly 150,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease each year. Breaking that down further, one in every 23 men, and one in 25 women will get the disease during their lifetime.

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • A change in bowel clothes
  • Blood in gold on your stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation or a feeling that the bowel does not completely empty
  • Abdominal pain, aches or cramps that will not go away
  • Unexplainable weight loss

We know that symptoms of the disease often depend on the tumor size and where the cancer is located. Some people initially experience no symptoms. The good news is that the emphasis on screening through colonoscopies has made a positive impact in early while educational efforts have raised awareness on how our lifestyle choices can help prevent cancer.

Lifestyle factors linked to colon cancer include a poor diet, lack of exercise and physical activity as well as being overweight or obese.

Diets that are high in red meat and processed meat raise one’s colorectal risk. Cooking those meats at high temperatures – grilling, broiling and frying – raises the risk further.

Smoking and heavy use of alcohol has also been linked to colorectal cancers as well as other cancers. In addition, those who have type 2 diabetes, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, as well as those with rare inherited genetic conditions and syndromes are at higher risk.

The best prevention is to eat a healthy diet that includes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, pursue an active lifestyle that includes regular exercise and get that screening done when your doctor recommends it.

During our current pandemic, some people have decided to postpone any screenings – even when symptoms exist. Please do not delay this important preventative care. At Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital, and throughout the health system, universal masking, vaccination and daily employee screenings remain in place as well as additional protocols to ensure a safe environment for all our patients. It is safe to seek care.

If you know you are 45 or older, or experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, talk to your provider and make an appointment for a colon screening exam. Your loved ones will thank you.

To learn more about services offered at Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital, visit

Brian McComb, DO, is the chief medical officer of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital and a family physician who practices at Manistee Primary Care, 1293 Parkdale Ave., in Manistee. His office can be reached at 231-398-1840.

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