Campaign raises awareness about colon cancer

The New York State Cancer Services Program of the New York State Department of Health is launching a public health campaign to raise awareness about colorectal cancer. Throughout the villages of Livingston County, signs for the Main Street Goes Blue campaign are going up.

According to the Livingston County Department of Health website, participating businesses and village libraries across the county are distributing educational pamphlets and bookmarks about the disease. Trees along the main streets of Geneseo and eight other villages will be wrapped in purple ribbons. These efforts, the website said, are an attempt to combat a disease that has a higher mortality rate in Livingston County than anywhere in New York. 

According to the website, the Cancer Services Program’s campaign, now in its third year, offers free colon cancer screenings to uninsured or underinsured adults 50 years and older. 

According to Cancer Services Program Coordinator for the Livingston County Department of Health Colleen Schiedel, Geneseo was the pilot for the program when first introduced to Livingston County in 2010. In recent years, doctors involved with the program reported an increase in the number of colorectal cancer screenings, in large part from increased public awareness, thanks to the campaign. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites colorectal cancer as a particular threat to those who are 50 and older. 

According to its website, if everyone 50 years and older had regular screening tests, at least 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided according.

Other high risk factors are diets high in red processed meat and a personal history of colon or breast cancer. As one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States, one in 19 Americans will develop colon cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Schiedel said that the number of deaths in Livingston County has been relatively high because of the stigma attached to colorectal cancer. She said lack of health care access also compounds this issue, making people delay getting a colonoscopy. While the disease is treatable, many times people do not seek medical attention until it is too late, she added.

“Stage four is usually when patients start to experience acute symptoms of the cancer. By this point, it is significantly more difficult to treat,” Schiedel said. “Nobody should [be] dying from colorectal cancer; it’s a preventable and treatable disease if it is caught early.”

The program seeks to not only offer health services to those who are in need but also to raise public awareness. By bringing it into the public eye, the campaign hopes to remove the stigma attached to the issue.