Kalamazoo, MIHealthcare providers in Kalamazoo County are launching a major campaign to screen more people for colon cancer and it comes on the heels of a new study that affirms the lifesaving role of colonoscopy. 

Just as the campaign, “NO IFS ANDS OR BUTTS—Colonoscopies Save Lives” hits the streets and the airwaves, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reports that a new study provides the best evidence yet that colonoscopy screening prevents deaths.  According to the report, the death rate from colorectal cancer was cut by 53 percent in those who had the test and whose doctors removed precancerous growths known as adenomatous polyps.    “This important study lends further support in favor of screening colonoscopy”, says Thomas Gushurst, MD, of Gastroenterology of Southwest Michigan.  “Not only can this procedure detect colon cancer at a treatable stage before it causes symptoms, it also can detect and remove precursor lesions, polyps, before they can grow and progress to a cancer”, he adds.  “By promoting screening colonoscopy and removing polyps, we hope to further reduce the death rate and also the incidence of colon cancer so that it no longer is as common or as deadly as it is today.”

Through a collaboration of area healthcare providers, 50 uninsured Kalamazoo County residents will receive free colonoscopies in March in a new program called “Blue Ribbon Days”.  In addition, a free health fair at Bronson’s Gilmore Center for Health Education is set for Saturday, March 3rd from 10-3 p.m. to educate the public about colon cancer screening.  The fair will feature a videotaped ‘live’ colonoscopy, nutrition presentations, a mock procedure room, panel discussion, da Vinci robot display and blood drive.  Local pharmacies are behind the screening campaign as well.  They’re providing customers 50 years and older with informational fliers stapled to their prescription bags as a reminder to talk to their doctor about colon cancer screening.

Charles Warfield checks with his doctor every year to make sure he’s up to date on his colon cancer screening.  After losing a brother to the disease, Warfield says he wouldn’t miss his colonoscopy for anything.   “I have found the procedure to be relatively simple and painless”, says Warfield.  “Unfortunately, in my brother’s case, fear prevented him from taking care of a problem which ultimately led to his death.  After that, I decided that regular screening gives me a better chance at a long, quality life”. 

Partners in the community colon cancer screening awareness campaign include:  American Cancer Society, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Borgess Medical Center, Bronson Methodist Hospital, Endoscopy and Surgery Center of Woodbridge Hills, Family Health Center, Gastroenterology of Southwest Michigan, Kalamazoo Anesthesiology, Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies, Kalamazoo Colorectal Cancer Awareness Network (KCRAN), Kalamazoo County Cancer Control Coalition, Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services,  Kalamazoo Endo Center, Kalamazoo Gastroenterology Hepatology, KCMS Pharmacy, LifeLinc Anesthesia, Meijer and West Michigan Cancer Center.