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A walk through a ‘colon’

Giant display serves as educational tool

AN UNUSUAL JOURNEY — Visitors to the Prime Time Senior Center at 300 Lovers Lane, Steubenville, were encouraged to walk through a giant inflatable colon Wednesday as part of a colon cancer awareness display, a collaborative effort involving Ohio State University Medical Center, the Women in Action Against Cancer Coalition of Jefferson County and Trinity Health System. The display provided a close-up look at healthy tissue, tissue with nonmalignant colorectal diseases and tissue with various stages of colorectal cancer. Literature and guided tours were available from local health professionals with Sherry Miller, right, a nurse practictioner in Dr. Basil Termanini’s office, showing Danielle Barker what advanced colon cancer looks like. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — It’s not every day you can take a walk through a colon — or even want to.

But that opportunity presented itself Wednesday when visitors to the Prime Time Senior Center in Steubenville got to do just that — tour a giant inflatable colon as part of an educational display brought for a first-time visit to Jefferson County.

The 10-foot high, 30-foot long and 10-foot wide “colon” was set up inside the facility at 300 Lovers Lane for a four-hour come-and-see experience.

And the curious exhibited no qualms about entering or exiting it or listening and asking questions along the way as part of guided tours led by local health professionals.

More than 100 people visited the display in the first hour alone, which pleased Darla Fickle, program director at the Ohio State University Medical Center, and Janet Sharpe of the Women in Action Against Cancer Coalition of Jefferson County.

The two have worked together in the past, according to Sharpe, who said Fickle has attended coalition meetings. “We started out as the Appalachian Leadership Initiative Against Cancer, then we became the Appalachian Cancer Network and now it’s Appalachian Community Cancer Network,” Sharpe said. The ACCN Research Center is a team of community partners and academic collaborators from Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia working together to reduce cancer health disparities in the Appalachian region, according to its website.

“She was talking about the inflatable colon, and we thought it would be great to be able to bring it to Steubenville so the people could see this educational tool, and so far we’ve had a nice crowd,” Sharpe explained Wednesday.

The James OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center, WIAACC and Trinity Health System collaborated on the display that raised awareness about colon cancer, providing a close-up look at healthy tissue, tissue with nonmalignant colorectal diseases and tissue with various stages of colorectal cancer.

Fickle said the display is relatively new.

“We’ve had it for a little over two years and have taken it to many of the Appalachian counties. We’ve never been to Jefferson County — this is our first day we’re here,” Fickle said, “We’re thrilled the Women in Action Against Cancer Coalition was willing to host this event for us to bring it today, and again it’s all about educating people about the importance of colon cancer screening because we all know we have a 90 percent survival rate if it’s detected early,” she said.

“We want to show people what the inside of the colon should look like, what polpys look like and explain to them how easily those can be removed through colonoscopy,” Fickle continued. “We also show them what advanced colon cancer looks like, so what we want to do is avoid that from happening. We want to catch it early, and I think with this interactive display, people can see. We have nurses here today and doctors coming as well to explain to people how important colon cancer screening is to increase your survival, so that’s why we’re here today.”

The display shows what normal colon tissue looks vs. what inflammatory bowel disease looks like, Fickle explained. “We show them what a polyp looks like, and we want to remove it while it is still benign and just a single polyp. Then we take them on a journey where we show them if you don’t remove that single polyp, it will become a cluster of polyps, and by that time, it is more likely malignant, so then if you ignore the malignant polpy, an outside growth outside your colon, what happens it is will become colon cancer, so at that point it’s inside the lining of your colon, and it becomes colon cancer surgery and you have a section of your colon cut out and reattached, so obviously we want to catch that before all that happens,” she said. “If that is ignored, it will become advanced colon cancer and grow to other areas of your body and obviously we want to catch it early so that doesn’t happen.”

Like cervical and lung cancer, colon cancer also has a higher incidence throughout the Appalachian region, according to Fickle.

The reason?

“Some of it is lifestyle, so obviously we want people to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, have a high-fiber, low-fat diet that will decrease the risk of developing colon cancer, but also access to colon cancer screening,” Fickle said. “You guys are very lucky here in Jefferson County, Steubenville, that you have Trinity, and you have the ability to get colon cancer screening, but not all counties in Appalachian have access to that,” she said.

“We have nine counties in Appalachia Ohio that do not have a hospital or colon cancer screening facility either so they can’t get a colonoscopy inside those counties,” she said. That adds a travel difficulty for some in addition to the lack of insurance coverage for a colonoscopy. “We encourage people to not only talk to their doctor but check with their insurance company to see whether a colonoscopy would be covered,” she said.

Information distributed noted that starting at age 50, men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should use one of the following screening tests: A flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every five years, or; colonoscopy, every 10 years; or a CT colongraphy (virtual colongraphy) every five years. Tests for cancer detection are: Yearly fecal occult blood test; or yearly fecal immunochemical test; or stool DNA test, every three years.

People should talk with their health care provider about what the best test is for them and when they should start screening.

“The response has been overwhelming, and we have had a high amount of people keeping all the nurses and staff providing one-on-one tours,” Sharpe said of the display.

“The members who belong here at Prime Time and were here early had had so much fun just watching us set it up and get ready for this,” Sharpe said.

While the event made available cancer information, it also promoted the coalition.

“We have an enrollment form if you want to join us — we’re a fun group,” assured Sharpe. The coalition’s next meeting will be held at noon on Aug. 6 at the Prime Time Senior Center. For information, contact Sharpe by phone at (740) 632-1144 or by e-mail to janetsharpe@yahoo.com.

“The more people we can have join the coalition, the more things like this we can have, and I do have to put a plug in for Prime Time,” Sharpe said. “They have been wonderful.”

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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