Essentia Health marks Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month with a chance to walk through a giant colonIf you’ve ever wanted to take a stroll through a larger-than-life colon, here is your chance.
If you’ve ever wanted to take a stroll through a larger-than-life colon, here is your chance.
The public is invited to the Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior for an up close and personal look at a part of our bodies that many of us would rather not think about. A large inflatable colon will be open for mini tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, March 15.
This giant colon has it all: Healthy pink tissue, bulging growths called polyps, and a bright red mass from advanced colon cancer.
While it may be tempting to break out the potty jokes, this big bowel is intended to raise awareness about the risk factors and symptoms of a serious health concern. Colon cancer is the number two cause of cancer death in the United States. Each year, more Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer than the populations of Duluth and Superior combined.
“The earlier colon cancer is caught, the greater the likelihood of a cure,” explains Essentia Health gastroenterologist Dr. Theresa Smith.
Digestive health experts like Dr. Smith say the best way to catch colon cancer early – or to help prevent it altogether – is a test called a colonoscopy. It’s recommended for everyone starting at age 50, or earlier if there’s a family history of the disease. Talk to your doctor at any age if you have symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation or a feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely, abdominal discomfort, and unexplained weight loss.
During the colonoscopy, a doctor uses a thin, flexible tube attached to a camera to get a good look at the entire colon. The doctor can also remove abnormal growths at the same time. “If we can remove polyps during a colonoscopy, we can decrease the chances of a patient developing colon cancer by 60 to 70 percent,” Dr. Smith says.
Another benefit of the colonoscopy: If you have a standard risk for developing colon cancer and have a normal test, you don’t need another one for 10 years. But don’t worry – you can wander through the inflatable colon as many times as you want.
“Anything that allows people to understand why we recommend the procedure, what we might find and what we might do with that is valuable,” Dr. Smith says of the educational display. Bottom line: Learning more about the colon and the importance of colonoscopies may save your life.