ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The colonoscope is a piece of equipment that can save lives, but only for those who get screened for colon cancer — when they’re supposed to.

“Screening is very important for colorectal cancer," said Dr. Janice Cheong, assistant professor of medicine at URMC, "in terms of prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer.”

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It's a month-long campaign touting the importance of screening and early detection.  

"So we say 45 is the new 50," said Cheong. "We've seen an overall decrease in incidence of colorectal cancer in patients aged 50 and above, and likely that's secondary to screening.”

An increase in colon cancer cases in those younger than 50 prompted the change. Still, many hesitate to have the procedure.

“It could be you know they're feeling well, they have no symptoms," Cheong said.

Others cringe at the thought of the preparation or the procedure itself.

“Most patients do very well after the procedure," said Cheong.

Home screening tests are also popular.   

Hannah Farley does outreach and education for Cancer Services Program of the Finger Lakes.

“The barriers that we see more is that people are unfamiliar with, where they can go for a service, or they don't know that they're due for a cancer screening or they’re not connected to a primary physician," said Farley.

The state-funded cancer services program will pay for screening services for those who are uninsured or underinsured — people who are statistically less likely to be screened.

“It can really help to save someone's life," Farley said. "Whether it's you as a family member that you're you're telling your dad about it or you're telling your brother about it, to go get screened, you're letting them know that there's these options available. It can really help to save someone's life.”

“I do want to stress the importance of telling your health care providers about any symptoms that you might have," said Cheong.

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Experts say it’s also the most preventable.

“It is one of those cancers that we do have a way to prevent at this time if we just stay ahead of the game," Farley said.