News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Free at-home colorectal cancer screening kits available for uninsured/underinsured
Men and women age 50-64 from Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties eligible

(June 22, 2011) Most cancer screening is designed to find cancer early when it can be easier to treat. But colorectal cancer screening can actually prevent the disease.

"Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.," said Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "We can impact the number of colorectal cancer cases and deaths from the disease by increasing screening rates."

The American Cancer Society recommends regular colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 50. Meyerson says that can be difficult for people who do not have health insurance that covers the cost of screening. So the Health Department is offering free at-home colorectal cancer screening kits for men and women age 50 to 64 from Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties who are uninsured or whose health insurance does not cover colorectal cancer screening. Call the Health Department at 800-432-4121 to check eligibility and request an at-home screening kit.

Further testing may be covered by the Colorectal Cancer Early Detection Program. If needed, the Health Department helps coordinate treatment with local hospitals and physicians.

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that forms in the colon and rectum; these are parts of the digestive system through which partially digested food and water passes on its way out of the body. The disease causes no symptom in the early stages, although abnormal growths called polyps may develop in the colon or rectum. Most polyps are not cancer, but some may develop into cancer if they are not removed.

The exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, although there are several risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing the disease such as age over 50 years, presence of colorectal polyps, family history, high fat diet, smoking, certain genetic alterations and a personal history of cancer.

"Finding and removing polyps keeps people from getting colorectal cancer," Meyerson said. "By improving colorectal cancer screening rates, we're hoping to see fewer deaths."

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. To request an in-home colorectal cancer screening kit, call 800-432-4121 during regular business hours.