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Zeeland's "Colonoscopy Couple" shares the importance of colon cancer screenings

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Medical Moment: Colonoscopy Awareness
Posted at 11:19 AM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 11:20:06-04

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, yet it is one of the most preventable cancers. 60 percent of deaths from colon cancer could have been prevented with screening.

Annie and Steve Hamstra, residents of Zeeland who have been deemed “the Colonoscopy Couple", know firsthand the devastating effect that colon cancer can have and are advocates for preventative screenings. They join the Fox 17 Morning Mix, along with Dr. Tiffany Jarois, a gastroenterologist with the Spectrum Health Medical Group in Holland, to talk about the importance of preventative screenings.

Steve lost his dad to colon cancer 15 years ago, placing him in the high-risk category because it is something that can be passed along from generation to generation. He also lost his first wife to skin cancer, so the illness wasn't uncommon to him.

Due to Steve's family history, he's gotten a colonoscopy every three years since 2005. While the concept of a colonoscopy is familiar to Steve, it was a total first for Annie when she turned 50. The couple decided since they were both due for a colonoscopy that year, they would schedule one together for the same day.

Fortunately, the death rate from colon cancer has been steadily declining over the last several decades. One of the main factors for the decline is the increased awareness for colon cancer screening. 

Many people who should be getting screened for colon cancer are not being screened. Around 70 percent of American adults aged 50-75 are up to date on screening. Colonoscopies help medical professionals identify and remove pre-cancerous polyps preventing colon cancer.

A colon polyp is a small growth found on the inside of the colon. When a polyp gets larger than the eraser on the end of a pencil (five millimeters) its cells can gradually become cancerous. Not all polyps will become cancer, but it is important to remove them all to reduce the possibility. When identified early, colon cancer is successfully treated.

To find a Spectrum Health colonoscopy location near you, visit spectrumhealth.org/colonoscopy.

Medical Moment is sponsored by Spectrum Health.