Giant walk-through colon helps encourage screenings for National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Standing in a giant colon and seeing what a polyp looks like may be a good source for jokes, but it has a serious purpose during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

"The goal is to get people less anxious about doing screening that saves lives," said Dr. Lee Schwartzberg, medical director of the The West Clinic in Memphis, Tenn.

Inflatable colon displays, offering a walk-through introduction to colons, polyps and the need for colonoscopies for men and women to prevent colon cancer or catch it early, have been popping up all over the country, including at The West Clinic last week.

"Polyps are benign at first, but if they are left to grow over months to years they can become malignant," Schwartzberg said. "They don't all do, but some do."

"Doing a colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years afterwards, if there are no polyps or more frequently depending on what a doctor said, is the best way to prevent colon cancer and catch it early to save lives," he said.

Health care reforms under the Affordable Care Act require private insurers to provide preventive care including routine colonoscopies with no cost sharing, such as co-pays or deductibles.

"I think more people will get it covered, but a certain number of people who have it covered don't get it done because they're scared of the prep or scared of the procedure," Schwartzberg said. "And they shouldn't be scared of either of them."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States among cancers that affect both men and women. About 140,000 people are diagnosed and more than 50,000 die from it each year.

View the pros and cons of various colon cancer screening methods.

Purchase or rent a giant inflatable colon from the Colon Cancer Alliance.

Want to spend more time getting acquainted with a colon? Hotel CasAnus in Belgium offers an overnight experience.

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