SEATTLE, March 17 More than 50 Washington communityleaders, elected officials, sports stars and local celebrities have joinedforces with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to help launch a multiyearawareness campaign -- "Your colon. Your life. Your call." -- to increasecolon-cancer screening rates and reduce deaths from the disease in Washington.
The campaign is chaired by Fred Brown, a retired bank executive and formerSeattle Supersonics basketball star. The campaign will rely onpermission-based e-mails to reach 60,000 state residents, as well as onlinenewsletters, TV public-service announcements and online social-networkingsites to:
Supporting the campaign is a new Web site,http://www.endcoloncancernow.org, where people can go to calculate their riskfactors for colon cancer and learn about the latest recommended screeningoptions and guidelines, among other information.
All visitors to the site are encouraged to add their names to one of twoonline declarations -- one for citizens and one for physicians -- whichindicates they have declared their support for colon-cancer screening byspreading the word with others, with the goal of creating a statewide viralcolon-cancer awareness movement.
The Web site also features testimonials about the importance ofcolon-cancer screening from more than 50 community leaders, most of whom areover 50 -- the age at which most people are encouraged to start colon-cancerscreening. These advocates also support the campaign by declaring theircommitment to spread the word about the importance of colon-cancer screening;each has agreed to contact at least five friends or family members, who arethen encouraged to do the same.
The group includes Nobel laureate Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., president anddirector of the Hutchinson Center; former Washington Gov. Gary Locke; SeattleSymphony music director Gerard Schwarz; Washington State University presidentElson Floyd; local TV and radio personalities Jean Enersen, Pat Cashman andDave Ross; elected officials Phyllis Gutierrez Kenny, Lynn Kessler and MarySkinner; and City of Seattle librarian Deborah Jacobs.
Brown, a recently retired banking executive, is a colon-cancer awarenessadvocate in large part because many of his friends have battled the disease.
"Often they just didn't get annual physicals and routine screening tests,"said Brown, who seeks to overcome people's reluctance about screening testssuch as colonoscopy by meeting the subject head on.
"Many people are scared or don't want certain areas examined. I explainthere's no pain, it's a simple procedure, and 15 to 20 minutes later the wholething is done," he said. "I tell people it's easy. The first time I had acolonoscopy, I went to sleep and the next thing I knew, I was joking with mydoctors."
Colon cancer is the third most-commonly diagnosed cancer and thesecond-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. An estimated 49,960Americans, including 940 Washington state residents, will die of the diseasethis year, according to the American Cancer Society.
"The true tragedy of this figure is that most of these deaths could beprevented if people would take the opportunity to get regular colon-cancerscreening," said Scott Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., director of the HutchinsonCenter's Cancer Prevention Clinic. Ramsey, an internist and health-careeconomist, has been an outspoken advocate of mandatory insurance coverage forsuch screening, which goes into effect July 1 in Washington. Due to uneveninsurance coverage, currently only 30 percent of Americans take advantage ofcolon-cancer screening.
Screening and early detection are crucial because people with colon cancermay be asymptomatic for many years, and precancerous lesions or polyps maytake 10 years to transform from benign to malignant. If routine screening viacolonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy detects