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Each year more than 150,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, with 1 in 3 succumbing to the disease.

But Catholic Health’s St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center® Director of Gastroenterology Neeraj Kaushik, MD, said those figures would decrease significantly if more people had a colorectal screening.

“Getting a colonoscopy is the most important thing people can do to avoid colorectal cancer,” Dr. Kaushik said. “Currently, only about 60% of those who should be screened based on their age, family history or other factor do so.”

American Cancer Society guidelines recommend that average-risk adults aged 45 years and older undergo a screening and continue to do so regularly until the age of 75. Those at higher risk due to factors that include previous diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease, family history or previous cancer diagnosis should be screened before the age of 45.

Encouraging a greater number of those eligible for colon screenings to do so continues to be a major point of emphasis for physicians. Dr. Kaushik said people avoid getting tested either because they think they are in good health, they’re unaware of risk factors or have a negative impression of the pre-test preparation needed to ensure a proper screening.

“While some may see the prep as inconvenient, it is important to understand that having a screening and identifying and removing polyps in the colon allows us to catch a possible issue early and prevent a bigger health problem in the future,” he said.

While the thought of a colonoscopy may be unpleasant, Dr. Kaushik noted that there are several less invasive screening options available that can used based on an individual’s risk level. These include tests that examine the stool for signs of cancer or polyps. These can be done from the convenience of home, but may need to be done more often. An individual receiving a positive result from a stool-based test will need to follow up with his or her doctor for a colonoscopy.

“With the many screening options now available, it’s important for people to speak with their doctor and choose the solution that works best for them,” Dr. Kaushik explained. “Our goal is to help people lead longer lives and getting screened is the best tool we have to do that.”

More information on the colorectal cancer treatment services offered by Catholic Health may be obtained by visiting or calling (844) 86-CANCER.

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