March initiatives promote colon cancer screening

Baylor’s Cullen Building is awash in blue for the month of March, one of 50 buildings in the Houston area that’s lighted up for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Drs. Ben Musher and Kent Osborne with Allison Rosen and Mayor Sylvester Turner and others to support colon cancer screening and awareness.

In addition, leaders from Baylor’s Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the community, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, along with cancer survivors, joined together for an interactive event March 5 at the Texas Medical Center’s McGovern Commons to raise awareness of the importance of colon cancer screening.

In partnership with the American Cancer Society, the event featured a 20-foot walk-through, inflatable colon that offers information on colon health, demonstrating the importance of colonoscopy screening, which is now recommended by the American Cancer Society to begin at age 45, down from age 50.

Dr. Kent Osborne, director of the Duncan Cancer Center, and Dr. Ben Musher, who leads the gastrointestinal cancer program in the center, spoke to the importance of screening.

“I see 150 new cases of colon cancer each year, and many of them could have been prevented,” said Musher, associate professor of medicine – hematology / oncology at Baylor. “I encourage everyone to talk to their family and loved ones and urge them to get screened, and of course to get screened themselves.”

Osborne echoed that, stating that “there should not be any deaths from colon cancer.” He also highlighted the Duncan Cancer Center’s efforts to reach the underserved community by distributing more than 500,000 at-home fecal immunochemical tests, or FIT, over 5 years. This test, performed at home and returned in an envelope provided with the FIT kit, detects small amounts of blood in the feces, which may be a sign of a polyp on the colon or cancer. If blood is detected, a colonoscopy may be required.

Allison Rosen, a colon cancer survivor who now works in the Office of Outreach and Health Disparities at the Duncan Cancer Center, also spoke at the event, offering the reminder that colon cancer does not discriminate and is impacting an increasing number of young people like her.

The event was concluded with a proclamation from Mayor Turner designating March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in the city. He emphasized that colon cancer rates are high among African-American men and urged testing, noting that “drinking the stuff” in preparation for a colonoscopy is well worth it to stay healthy.

The educational inflatable colon also was on display in the lobby of the hospital building on the McNair Campus, providing important information to visitors and faculty and staff.