Mercy Health sets the record straight on colorectal cancer

Mar. 18—TOLEDO — March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, it's the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women.

Although there have been several advancements in colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment over the past few decades, many misconceptions still exist that prevent individuals from undergoing appropriate screenings and treatment. This month is a great opportunity to raise awareness while also clarifying misunderstandings.

Dr. David Kim, a General Surgeon who operates at Mercy Health — Perrysburg and St. Anne Hospitals. He regularly performs screening colonoscopies and frequently addresses common misconceptions about screening for colorectal cancer. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and concerns about colorectal cancer screening.

—I'm too young to worry about colorectal cancer.

While most individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer are over the age of 55, there has been a significant increase in patients diagnosed with this cancer t between the ages of 40 and 50. It is recommended you start colonoscopy screening at age 45.

—I don't need a colonoscopy if I'm not having any bowel issues.

Delaying colorectal cancer screening is one of the reasons why some patients are found to have advanced cancers when they could have been found and treated much sooner. When discovered early, polyps and even some tumors can be removed during colonoscopy which avoids the need for colon surgery.

—I'm too scared or embarrassed to have a colonoscopy.

There are other ways to screen for colorectal cancer without the need for colonoscopy as long as you don't have any personal or family factors that increase your risk of cancer. Stool tests including FIT test (Fecal Immunochemical Test) and Cologuard test are used for colorectal cancer screening. FIT test for screening is done yearly, Cologuard testing is done every three years. You can ask for these test kits through your primary care provider's office and complete your colorectal cancer screening in the privacy of your home. A colonoscopy remains the most comprehensive screening available but these alternatives for screening are also acceptable and covered by insurance plans.

—Is colorectal cancer genetic?

While most cases of colorectal cancer are sporadic, about 5 to 10 percent of colorectal cancer cases are associated with inherited genetic changes If you have had family members with a history of colorectal cancer or high-risk polyps then you may benefit from seeing a genetic counselor to evaluate whether you need gene testing for determining your individual risk for colorectal cancer. Discuss with your primary care provider to see if you are a candidate for genetic testing.

—This is all a lot of information and it's too complicated to understand.

Finding the right information and resources can feel overwhelming. Mercy Health has a multidisciplinary cancer team that can provide you and your family with key education and support for identifying cancer risks, coordinating cancer screenings, developing risk reduction strategies and connecting you with our top team of cancer physicians quickly and seamlessly.

To learn more, visit to find an expert, compassionate caregiver near you today.