Colon can­cer aware­ness cam­paign is larger than life

Kent Hos­pi­tal’s Strollin’ Colon aims to change per­spec­tive on dis­ease

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JONATHAN BISSONNETTE jbis­son­[email protected]­tuck­et­

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.

Photo by Jonathan Bissonnette

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.

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