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Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer
deaths in the United States. In 2013, about 143,000 people in the United States were
diagnosed with colorectal cancer and about one-third of those people will die
from the disease. Many of those deaths could have been prevented
because CRC is rarely fatal when detected early through routine screening.
Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous
polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Early detection through
screening is crucial because screening tests help find polyps or cancer before the
onset of symptoms. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends
screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – a perfect time to promote awareness about
getting screened. Alaska ranks among the top 10 states in colorectal cancer
incidence, but has one of the lowest screening rates. Only about 61% of Alaskans in
the recommended age group have been screened for colorectal cancer, and rates
are lower among people with low income, the under-insured or uninsured, and racial
and Alaska Natives.
In an effort
to increase screening rates in Alaska, the Alaska Colorectal Cancer Partnership is launching a statewide CRC screening initiative March 1, 2014 called
“The Cancer I Can Prevent”. It will promote screening for colorectal cancer
through a website and patient education materials along with a media campaign. Once the website and tool-kit have officially launched an announcement will be made.
The Alaska Colorectal Cancer
Partnership (ACCP) is a statewide coalition made up of government, tribal
health, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations tasked with addressing colon
cancer issues, including prevention, screening and access to care.
include the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), South Central
Foundation, Ride for Life Alaska, Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center,
Providence Cancer Center, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corporation Arctic
Slope Regional Health Corporation, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, Alaska
Regional Hospital, the State of Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Control Program,
Cancer Institute (website).
J. Alberts, S. Sacco, F. and Lanier,
A. Colorectal Cancer in Alaska Native
People, 2005–2009. Gastrointest Cancer Res. 2012 Sep-Oct; 5(5): 149–154.
Success Story: Nolan the Colon
In October 2010, the ANTHC
Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, in collaboration with the statewide CRC
Partnership, purchased an inflatable colon model. Nicknamed “Nolan the Colon,” the
model is a walk-through replica of a human colon that measures 20 feet wide by
32 feet long by 14 feet high.
The purpose of the
colon model is to increase CRC screening among Alaskans by increasing
knowledge, intention to be screened, and comfort regarding CRC screening. Display
signs inside the model provide tips and advice for CRC prevention, including
quitting tobacco use, eating fruits and vegetables, being physically active,
and obtaining regular colorectal screenings.
A study of the project published in 2013 showed that community
member interaction with the colon model led to significant increases in knowledge,
screening intention, and social support for screening.
Alaska BRFSS Prevalence and Trends Data show an increase in the proportion of the population
ages 50 or older who report ever having CRC screening. From 1997 to 2012, screening
rates increased from 41% to 61%.