Most people would prefer not to be named the mayor of COLONTOWN, but Erika Hansen Brown wouldn’t have it any other way.
A Montana native, Brown was diagnosed in 2002 with stage 3 colon cancer. When she was first diagnosed, she says she knew very little about cancer and its various stages, treatments, and side effects.
Fighting cancer is hard work, so having a support group of others going through the same thing with words of encouragement can be a big boost.
It’s this need for a support network that pushed Brown to create the nonprofit now known as COLONTOWN, a network connecting colorectal cancer patients, their families, and survivors.
In addition to being a support network, COLONTOWN also aims to empower patients by providing information on the latest clinical trials and medical advances in colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the U.S., and it is the second leading cause of death from cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Although screening rates for cancers like breast and cervical cancer are 72 and 80 percent, respectively, colorectal cancer screening rates lag at 58 percent.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s latest numbers — September 2016 — show southeast Idaho screening rates are even lower than the national average at 55 percent.
“It is one of the most preventable cancers.”
If those numbers were to increase, and everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly for colorectal cancer, the U.S. Department of Health says 6 out of 10 deaths could be prevented.
Organizations like COLONTOWN hope to change that by breaking down the taboo surrounding the topic of colorectal function and disease and advocating prevention.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to bring attention to a topic that can be uncomfortable to discuss.
Dr. Jacob Curtis with Grand Peaks Medical and Dental in Rexburg says the procedure is easier than people believe.
“You are asleep for the entire procedure. And with a colonoscopy every 10 years after age 50 you can all but rule out the possibility of passing away from this disease, as it is one of the most preventable cancers because it is historically slow growing,” he said.
He also encourages everyone over 50 to talk to their health care providers about whether it is time to have a colonoscopy.
Finding colorectal cancer early during a colonoscopy, when it’s small, hasn’t spread, and is easier to treat, can save your life.
Wondering if you should get tested? Click here for more information.