OGDENSBURG — A giant inflatable colon purchased by Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center made its debut Friday when hospital employees had a chance to explore the display before it’s showcased at health fairs and other public events.
Dr. Noah B. Zuker, a CHM surgeon who performs colonoscopies, said he was thrilled the hospital now owns the oversized colon.
“Most people aren’t thinking a lot about their colon too often,” Dr. Zuker said. “Having something like this to use as a demonstration is going to be important to help them make a better connection to what’s happening in their body.”
The oversized colon will be used to promote screenings for colorectal cancer and other diseases related to the colon such as Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease.
Colorectal cancer, commonly known as colon cancer, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths, according to the Colon Cancer Coalition.
Anyone can get colon cancer and the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with it is about one in 20, the coalition states on its website. Each year, roughly 137,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer, with 50,000 dying annually.
Dr. Zuker first learned about inflatable colon displays while attending a statewide cancer liaison physicians meeting about two years ago.
“I thought it might be a great idea to get people interested and talking about it,” Dr. Zuker said.
Initially, he expected the hospital might rent the colon for special outreach events. However, owning it became possible through a grant the facility received from the CHM Foundation.
The walls of the blown-up colon show visitors what non-cancerous polyps look like compared to cancerous polyps. Written information inside the display explains that colorectal cancer is malignant growth in the lining o the colon. Most patients survive colorectal cancer if it is found early and removed.
“Colon cancer is the only type of cancer we can prevent,” Dr. Zuker said. “We can only treat other types of cancer, but we can prevent colon cancer by removing polyps that may or may not turn into cancer.”
The American Cancer Society has lowered its recommended age to begin cancer screenings from 50 to 45. Those with close family members who have had colon cancer are at greater risk and may be advised to get a screening earlier.
On Friday afternoon, several physicians, nurses and other hospital employees walked through the colon while it was set up in the hospital’s auditorium.
Allyson Smith, a 25-year-old Lifeline assistant, said she believes the display will be effective at raising awareness about colon cancer because it gives people a giant view of what the inside of a colon looks like.
“It’s very interactive. You can see it and you can touch it,” she said.
The inflatable colon will be set up at the Lockwood Arena, West River Street, on Sept. 28 for a running event and again from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 29 for a free family wellness fair the hospital is hosting at the arena.
Michele Catlin, the hospital’s community outreach coordinator, said the north country’s screening rate for colonoscopies is below the statewide average and she’s hopeful the large display may improve that statistic.
“It gets people talking about colon cancer,” she said. “I can see kids dragging their parents through it.”
She said the hospital also offers free colonoscopies for uninsured or under-insured patients who have never been screened previously. Those are paid for with money the hospital receives from the St. Lawrence County Cancer Fund. Those who would like more information about free screenings can contact Mrs. Catlin at 315-713-5251.