Mind your colon (and we’re not talking grammar here)
If I’ve learned anything during my tenure at the Hutchinson Center, it’s this: Don’t take good health for granted, and guard it well. And that means being informed. Consider how we think, and talk, about cancer.
Before this full-time medical writing role, I had a vague awareness of the need to be vigilant about cancer screenings—thanks, unfortunately, to cancers that had crept into the skin and bones and other vital organs of loved ones. Still, I feel fortunate that the dastardly disease wasn’t regular conversation fodder among my mostly healthy twenty- and thirtysomething friends.
Which is to say that I wasn’t quite prepared for one of the major projects that would come my way at work: Relaying the importance of colorectal cancer screening, especially for people who are 50 and older or otherwise face higher risk for the disease.
It’s not that the topic was unfamiliar. I’d seen the spike in public awareness that accompanied then-Today Show host Katie Couric’s very public colonoscopy experience after tragically losing her husband to the disease. And I remember feeling proud of my parents when they, too, signed up for that new age 50-plus rite of passage: swigging a day’s supply of cleansing liquid, then getting examined by a high-tech scope in typically under-wraps regions. Sent home with good results, both described the experience as only moderately inconvenient, and I didn’t bother to, uh, probe any further. (I may have a close relationship with my parents, but I figured I’d draw the line at details as potentially sensitive as one’s digestive tract.)
That is, until I became part of the communications team behind Hutchinson Center’s End Colon Cancer Now campaign. Before I knew it, I was drafting holiday-themed electronic greeting cards and browsing innovative videos designed to help us spread the word.
Needless to say, there was no longer any room to be squeamish. Colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy and all of their medical-jargon relatives are now part of my vocabulary at work—and on occasion, I blush a bit to admit, at social mealtimes (sorry, fellow diners).
There are many things we still don’t know for sure about colorectal cancer, but here are a few points that seem pretty well settled: In many cases it’s a preventable disease, and prompt screening saves lives. You can get more information by visiting the Hutchinson Center’s End Colon Cancer Now site.
Because March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’d also like to know a little about where you stand on colorectal cancer screening. Have you gotten screened? Do you have plans to get screened? Are you younger than 50 and not ready to take the step yet?
Let us know by taking our Instapoll on the right side of the End Colon Cancer Now homepage.
You can also send your friends this special awareness-month e-card to remind them of the importance of getting screened.
By Anne Broache
Quest science writer