All jokes aside, the Big Inflatable Colon drew all ages to the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center last Thursday.
Everyone from toddlers holding a walking rope to octogenarians stopping to talk about their cancer experiences walked through the display, a part of the Big Colon Tour sponsored by the Colon Cancer Alliance and Bayer Healthcare.
“A lot of people had good questions and many had powerful personal stories to share,” said Dr. Roy Duhe, associate director for cancer education at the UMMC Cancer Institute.
The Cancer Institute joined 12 other groups, all partners in the 70x2020 Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative, to host the event. The primary message: Get your colorectal cancer screening or encourage someone you love to get theirs.
Duhe estimated about 280 people stopped at tables set up by initiative partners and even more likely walked through the inflatable colon that depicted how a healthy colon looks, along with depictions of polyps and a malignant colon.
The initiative's message helps bring it closer to its stated goal of seeing at least 70 percent of all eligible Mississippians screened by 2020.
For Jackson residents Eileen Wilson, Jerry Smith and Eilie Wolfe, all cancer survivors, the screening message is one they soundly endorse. The trio were interested in the food demonstration presented by Dacia Breeland, a dietitian with the Cancer Institute.
For others, the novelty was a draw. Andy Atkinson, who works at UMMC, said it met his expectations. While he's younger than 50, the recommended age to start screening, Atkinson said he plans to start when appropriate.
Linda Kirkland, left, watches as UMMC dietitian Dacia Breeden makes Happy Healthy Colon black beans with bell peppers and onions.
At the food demonstration, Sylvia Thomas of Jackson, who works at the medical mall, said her interest in eating healthier grew as she worked to lose weight. Now 68 pounds lighter, she said the prepared food met her requirements of fewer sugars and carbs.
“I like how she (Breeland) was using seasoning. It doesn't take away from the taste of the food,” Thomas said of the black beans with bell peppers and onions dish Breeland prepared.
As for the displays, Thomas said, “I learned about the importance of 50.”
Harold Hart of Yazoo City, who also works at the medical mall, said his interest in staying healthy drew him to the display and food demonstration.
“Cancer is a concern,” Hart said, explaining a dozen people in his church of 150 - 200 members have had cancer.
Dr. Vonda Reeves-Darby, a gastroenterologist with GI Associates in Jackson, discussed the importance of screening and keeping a healthy colon during the program.
Members of the initiative, now with some 325 partners statewide, know the message can't be spread fast enough.
Surveys of Mississippians indicate fewer than 60 percent of those for whom colorectal screening is recommended are screened.
The national guidelines the initiative follows recommend:
- Each adult be screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50, with successive screenings at intervals recommend by a doctor. Generally, those with a clear colonoscopy screening would be screened again in 10 years; most stool-based screens need to be repeated annually.
- Those with a family history of colorectal cancer - African-Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent have a higher rate of colorectal cancer - should discuss with their doctors the age to begin screening.
Partners in the 70x2020 Initiative ask Mississippians who are younger than 50 or who have already been screened to encourage their loved ones who are 50 or older to get screened. Once they've done so, they can post a photo of their effort on Twitter at #Ihadthetalk.
The UMMC Cancer Institute is a member of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable that seeks to see 80 percent of U.S. residents screened by 2018.
See the 70x2020 strategic plan here.
See colorectal cancer screening FAQ here.