Colon cancer awareness campaign is larger than life
Kent Hospital’s Strollin’ Colon aims to change perspective on disease
WARWICK – To investigate the inner workings of the human colon, you didn’t need to journey on a fantastic voyage. Instead, all you needed to do was take a trek on Thursday to Kent Hospital.
In an effort to break the silence and stigma associated with colon cancer and to allow people to feel more at ease discussing the topic, Kent Hospital and Care New England on Thursday morning invited visitors to the Warwick hospital to take a walk through “the Strollin’ Colon,” a 12-foot-wide and 10-foot-tall inflatable interactive educational tool.
According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer will cause more than 51,000 deaths in 2019, more than 60 percent of which could be avoided with preventative screening.
Melissa Murphy, a colorectal surgeon and the assistant chief of surgery at Kent Hospital, said the 10-foot-tall inflatable colon served as an invaluable tool to educate hospital patrons about the dangers posed by colon cancer and the importance of screenings, particularly with March representing Colon Cancer Awareness Month. According to Murphy, colon cancer is the third-leading deadly cancer, even though it’s a preventable disease.
With patients being sensitive or ap- prehensive to discuss colon cancers and colon screenings, Murphy said an up-close view of an inflated colon,
polyps, and cancer could perhaps remove the stigmas associated with the disease and allow visitors to the hospital to feel more at ease discussing such a potentially taboo subject.
The Strollin’ Colon, she said, was on hand at Kent Hospital to “raise public awareness, take away stigma and fear, explain the procedure, and explain why it’s important and what to expect during the process.”
The inflatable, 12-footwide colon first displays normal colon tissue, colored in a smooth pink shade with red blood vessels. However, right next to that is the first sign of trouble – a polyp, a fleshly growth in the colon’s lining that is
often discovered through colonoscopies. While polyps are often benign and non-cancerous, if left untreated, they can develop into colorectal cancer.
Murphy explained that removing a polyp from the colon is a fairly simple procedure, as she uses a lasso-like “snare” that latches onto the polyp and removes it from the intestinal lining. The growth is then sent to a hospital’s pathology laboratory to determine its severity.
If left unchecked, though, the polyp grows to the next level of concern, which is seen on the lining of the Strollin’ Colon – a malignant polyp, which is represented as a mass of polyps rather than a singular growth. Malignant polyps then can evolve into the final stage seen inside the inflatable
intestine: advanced colon cancer, which can work its way through the wall of the colon and into blood vessels and lymph nodes.
The key to early detection is regular colon screenings and most patients survive colon cancer if it is found early and removed.
Murphy said that people are advised to have a colonoscopy by age 50, but African-Americans are advised to have their colons checked by age 45 due to a higher incidence and outcome of colon cancer. While Murphy said she was unsure of exactly why it is that African-Americans have a higher incidence and outcome of colon cancer, she explained that data has shown that age 45 is the time to first have their colonoscopy.
Additionally, a first-de-
gree relative of someone with a colon cancer diagnosis is advised to have a colonoscopy earlier than age 50, Murphy said. Symptoms people should be on the lookout for include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, unplanned weight loss, or black stool.
A colonoscopy, Murphy said, is usually a half-hour procedure with anesthesia and patients are in and out of the hospital in a matter of hours at most. Operations to remove growths can be a bit longer, but are often performed laparoscopically or robotically.
“Now they’re minimally-invasive … even patients who undergo surgery have limited pain and time out of work,” Murphy said.
Kent Hospital assistant chief of surgery Melissa Murphy points out the polyps inside the Strollin’ Colon to Angela Hall-Jones of the American Cancer Society.
Kent Hospital and Care New England on Thursday morning invited visitors to the Warwick hospital to take a walk through “the Strollin’ Colon,” a 12-foot-wide and 10-foot-tall inflatable interactive educational tool.