KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s the time of year when everyone is making their New Year’s resolutions. For many, making health a priority is top of mind. Beyond weight loss and better eating – staying on top of health screenings should be at the top of your list.

It’s not something you look forward to, but it’s something that could save your life, colorectal cancer screenings. For African Americans the stakes are high.

“Just underwent my initial colonoscopy screen. I hesitated on sharing about it,” Jered Croom underwent his first screening this year and was moved to spread the word on social media to get more Black men and women thinking about colon cancer.

“This was my first colonoscopy. I have a history, unfortunately, of cancers in my family, including colon cancer. So, this is something that is really close to my heart. And at first it was a bit embarrassing to sort of reveal that part of your life that is very invasive, but I thought it was even more important to get the word out and decrease the stigma of this procedure, especially in the African American community,” said Croom.

Colorectal cancer disproportionately affects the Black community. According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans are about 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer, and 40% more likely to die from it, than most other groups.

The team at Gastrointestinal Associates is passionate about getting the word out that these screenings save lives. “We know that, especially in the United States that African Americans are screened at a less common rate than our other races, unfortunately, and…we do know problem exists and we’re trying our best to close that gap, if you will, and address the disparity,” said gastroenterologist, Dr. William Ergen.

A colonoscopy finds growths called polyps before they have a chance to turn into cancer. 

“And the best part about a colonoscopy is that not only are we looking at the lining of the colon, but if we find a polyp, we can actually take and remove that part at that very instant,” said Ergen.

More Health Watch Stories

If colorectal cancer is found early, it greatly increases your chance at survival.

“I think everyone deals with mortality in different ways. And you don’t want to know what you don’t know. And sometimes ignorance is bliss. But ignorance is also dangerous, and it’s the cost of ignorance. So, I want to banish my ignorance and pay the cost of knowledge. And with that came an understanding of what I need to do to be the most healthy me,” said Croom.

So, at age 45 it’s recommended that you put a colon screening on your health to-do list. If you are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about when to start your regular screenings. The screenings are considered preventative care and generally are covered under the Affordable Care Act.