Colorectal Cancer ‘ Good News, Bad News

Spectrum Health Offers Information, Screening During Awareness Month

The good news is that colorectal cancer incidence rates have been declining in the United States for the past two decades. The bad news is that the disease just became the second most deadly cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), lung cancer deaths rank first, followed by colorectal cancer, while breast cancer has fallen to third place.

“We have done a good job of increasing awareness of the disease and identifying risks,” said Donald Kim, MD, colorectal surgeon, Spectrum Health Medical Group. “However, when we don’t identify it early, colorectal cancer takes way too many lives.”

According to the ACS, nearly 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, and an estimated 50,000 die from it. Spectrum Health is focusing a spotlight on colorectal cancer during March, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Kim says that better screening and the removal of precancerous polyps have played a big role in reducing the number of new cases of colorectal cancer.

“Screening is absolutely essential because, early on, when we can still make a difference, colorectal cancer has no symptoms,” explained Kim.  “A colonoscopy is an excellent screening test as the examination not only can identify the precursor lesions, but can be used to remove the offending polyp. No other screening test can both identify and treat a disease – a win/win.”

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable—and curable—types of cancers. Diagnosing it as early as possible increases the likelihood that treatment will be effective. Men and women age 50 and older should have a regular screening for colorectal polyps, tumors and lesions. A colonoscopy is considered the most effective screening test because it can often detect a problem before any symptoms are present.

Kim adds that anyone can get colorectal cancer although the chances increase with age. Risk factors include family history, physical inactivity, obesity, high consumption of red or processed meats, smoking and moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption. One study found that just by living a healthy lifestyle, people can cut their risk of acquiring colorectal cancer by 25 percent. 

Spectrum Health has linked to a colorectal cancer risk assessment provided online by the National Cancer Institute at

People at risk can also request a free colon cancer screening kit, which can be administered at home. To request a kit, call Spectrum Health at 616.486.5950 and select option four when prompted.

More tips to prevent colorectal cancer can be found at

Spectrum Health is also sponsoring the following special events this month:

Online Chat: Hope in the Fight Against Colon Cancer
Nadav Dujovny, MD
Friday, March 9, noon to 1 p.m. 
Spectrum Health Irish Jig 5K
Saturday, March 17
Men’s Race: 9 a.m.
Women’s Race: 9:35 a.m.
The 29th annual Spectrum Health Irish Jig 5K race will help raise awareness of colorectal cancer.

Online Chat: Understanding Genetics and Cancer
Judith Hiemenga, MD, Spectrum Health Medical Group
Thursday, March 22, noon to 1 p.m.

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of nine hospitals including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a state of the art children’s hospital that opened in January 2011, and 190 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group and West Michigan Heart, physician groups totaling more than 600 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with 625,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer with more than 18,000 employees. The organization provided $176.5 million in community benefit during its 2011 fiscal year.