FLINT — During March, Michiganders are just a phone call or a click away from getting a free at-home screening test for the nation’s third-most diagnosed cancer from McLaren Cancer Institute during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Last year, more than 5,400 people took advantage of McLaren’s free colorectal cancer screening program. The kits are suggested for people with a family history of colorectal cancer, as well as anyone age 50 and older. Age is the greatest risk factor for colorectal cancer, with more than 90 percent of cases diagnosed in people within this 50-plus age group.
“The result of early detection is clear,” said Dr. Justin Klamerus, interim president and medical director of McLaren Cancer Institute. “The earlier colorectal cancer is caught, the greater the chance for cure. Everyone over 50 should consider this simple test yearly.”
The painless, self-administered test requires a minimal stool sample, takes only a few minutes and is performed in the privacy of the home. No fasting is required, and any medicine can be taken normally as prescribed. To request a kit, call (855) 552-KNOW (5669), Monday through Friday, during normal business hours, or request a kit anytime online at mclaren.org/cancer.
The American Cancer Society projects that, this year, more than 50,000 Americans will die of colorectal cancer, which makes it the third leading cause of cancer-related death. This represents a decrease over the past two decades, due in part to increased screening and improved treatment. 
Unfortunately, screening rates for colorectal cancer still fall well below those for other types of cancer, often because people feel embarrassment, fear or shame about getting tested or even discussing testing options with their doctor.
Beginning at age 50, both men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should be regularly screened. People at higher risk, including those with a family history of the disease, may need to start screening before age 50.
There are additional risk factors besides age and family history of colorectal cancer, including those that are lifestyle-related, such as obesity, smoking, and a diet high in processed and red meat. In fact, the connections between colorectal cancer and diet, weight and exercise are some of the strongest for any type of cancer.
McLaren Cancer Institute is a wholly owned subsidiary of McLaren Health Care Corporation. The nonprofit system includes cancer centers affiliated with community and regional hospitals of the McLaren Health Care system, including Bay Region, Central Michigan, Clarkston, Greater Lansing, Lapeer Region, Flint, Macomb, Northern Michigan and Oakland, as well as an affiliate partnership with Memorial Cancer Center in Owosso.
With headquarters in Flint, McLaren Health Care reaches more than half of Michigan residents through more than 200 locations, 17,400 employees and 11,000 network physicians. McLaren Health Care had net revenues of $2.5 billion in 2012 and has experienced double-digit growth each year since 1989. The nonprofit system includes medical centers in Bay City, Flint, Lapeer, Lansing, Mount Clemens, Mount Pleasant, Petoskey and Pontiac. Additional health care services are provided at McLaren Clarkston; McLaren Bay Special Care in Bay City; McLaren Orthopedic Hospital in Lansing; and McLaren Proton Therapy Center in Flint. McLaren Health Care also operates McLaren Medical Group, an employed physician network; McLaren Homecare Group, an award-winning home health, hospice and medical supplies provider; McLaren Health Plan, a licensed HMO offering benefit plans for commercial businesses and Medicaid recipients; and McLaren Cancer Institute, the largest cancer care network of its kind in the state. For more information, visit mclaren.org.