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Eye on Health: “This is a common cancer, but it’s preventable,” says Beacon gastroenterologist

Charlie Sallee recently decided to get a colonoscopy. He’s young – only 46 years old. But because he only knows the medical history of one side of his family, his doctor advised him to get screened. “Let’s be thorough, let’s just be safe.”

Sallee agreed.

During this screening, Dr. Zuhair Yaseen of Beacon Medical Group Gastroenterology South Bend found several precancerous polyps that were removed. Sallee will get another colonoscopy next year to make sure nothing returns. He is glad he followed his doctor’s advice. “Not that I want to minimize it, but it’s not that scary. It’s done and over with.”

It’s Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and Sallee is helping to spread the word about the importance of screenings and encouraging others to get screened. He shares his story in our WSBT “Eye on Health” segment below.

An increasing number of younger adults are being diagnosed with advanced stages of colon cancer, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. In fact, colorectal cancer rates for those younger than 55 have nearly doubled during the last 25 years.

One reason for this alarming trend? People are not getting screened. Many of us are not aware that colonoscopies are now recommended at age 45 instead of 50. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the age for screenings just last year.

“It changed because we’re starting to see colorectal cancer in younger individuals — age 45, 48, 50. When we started screening at age 50, we were missing many of those,” says Dr. Christopher Hall, Beacon Medical Group Cleveland Road in South Bend.

Dr. Hall admits there’s nothing appealing about a colonoscopy: You can’t eat for 36 hours. There’s the prep the night before. And then there’s the screening itself. But he emphasizes how the importance of colon cancer screenings cannot be understated.

“Sometimes it’s a challenge to convince a patient to get a colonoscopy, so I try to be very open and honest with them and tell them how important it is,” Dr. Hall says. “If my patients can have regular colorectal screenings, then we can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by 50 to 75 percent and their chance of dying from it by 50 to 75 percent.”

Click here more much information about the risks and symptoms of colon cancer.

Or click here to schedule an appointment with a Beacon primary care provider.

About Heidi Prescott

Passionate about writing her whole life, Heidi Prescott joined Beacon Health System in 2015 and currently serves as Senior Media Relations Strategist. A former newspaper journalist who has experience in TV, radio, magazines and social media, Heidi loves storytelling, photography and spending time in nature.