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When it comes to talking colon cancer, it’s all about tradeoffs.

You may know that colonoscopy is the most common and effective screening option and generally the preferred way to screen for the disease, which is one of the five most common cancers and one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States. You may have heard that this procedure gets a bit of a bad rap — that yes, the prep is a little unpleasant, and yes, you may have some discomfort associated with the screening itself.

But did you also know that colon cancer is highly preventable when caught early? And that according to the American Cancer Society, improvements in prevention, detection and treatment mean more than one million people in the United States are survivors of this potentially devastating disease?

Some temporary discomfort for the shot at a longer life seems like an easy tradeoff to me. So why don’t more of us get screened?

Discomfort is one reason, and I don’t just mean with the procedure itself. There’s often a reluctance to talk about colon cancer and colon cancer screening, even though it’s a conversation that could literally save your life. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time when healthcare providers and advocates focus on building awareness and having that conversation, however uncomfortable it may be.

So let’s talk, starting with a discussion around who should be tested. Colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, especially early on. So have your first screening at age 50 (or sooner if you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family). Talk to your doctor if you have questions about your risk or when you should be tested.

Colonoscopy is the most common and effective screening option, but others exist. Your healthcare provider can help you decide which one is right for you.

When it comes to prevention, commonsense lifestyle choices are key. Stay active and eat well — plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains — to maintain a healthy weight. Don’t smoke (if you do, your healthcare provider can help you quit); and if you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. These are reasonable lifestyle modifications that could help prevent cancer in the first place — and that’s a tradeoff worth making.

If you do have an abnormal screening or are diagnosed with colon cancer, don’t panic. The sooner the disease is caught, the better, and effective treatment options are available (remember, one million survivors). Your medical team will help determine the best course of treatment for you.

When it comes to colon cancer, there’s one more tradeoff — keeping silent and avoiding this potentially uncomfortable topic versus taking a deep breath and having the conversation about screening. Make the tradeoff. Start talking. You could help save a life.

David Stampfl specializes in gastroenterology at Bellin Health Marinette.