MDCH: Talk about medical history with family over the holidays

From the Michigan Department of Community Health:

This Thanksgiving, Have a Family Health History Discussion

Michigan Residents Encouraged to Discuss Cancer Risks Within Families

Traditional holiday dinnerLANSING – Each year, Thanksgiving marks Family Health History Day when families are encouraged to discuss their health history with one another. Learning about your families’ health history is important for certain cancer screenings, such as colorectal cancer. Screening helps detect issues before there are symptoms and can save lives, but only if people know their risks and get tested.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer among men and women, but only one out of three adults who should have a screening test for colorectal cancer is getting tested. Though colorectal cancer screening rates in Michigan are higher than the national average, there is still much work to be done to reduce preventable deaths. As with many cancers, the earlier colorectal cancer is detected, the better the outcomes. About 90 percent of people live five or more years when their colorectal cancer is found early through screening. Additionally, some screening tests can find and remove growths called polyps before they become cancer.

Experts recommend colorectal cancer screening for adults between 50 and 75 years of age and earlier for people with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. Families should talk about their family history of colorectal cancer, in addition to other cancers, and share the information with their physician. Michigan physicians can help residents make a decision about what colorectal cancer screening test is best for them.

There are several different ways to do colorectal cancer testing and it is important to talk with your doctor about the test that is best for you. Studies show that people who are able to pick the test they prefer are more likely to actually complete the test. In addition, many insurance plans provide coverage for colorectal cancer screenings.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends any of three colorectal cancer screening tests, including colonoscopy, stool tests, and sigmoidoscopy. Increasing the use of recommended colorectal cancer tests can save more lives and is cost-effective. The three tests vary in cost and frequency of testing, providing options for personal preference. Typically, the stool test should be done annually, whereas sigmoidoscopy should be done every five years along with a stool test and a colonoscopy should be done once every 10 years.

The best thing that residents can do is to speak with their family members about their risks and then talk with their doctor about screening options. For more information, visit or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s colorectal cancer screening website at

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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