Most people who aren't health care professionals never will see the inside of a colon, but Tri-Citians had an opportunity to view a giant inflated replica of the tubelike internal organ on Tuesday -- and to learn more about the signs of colorectal cancer.
The Center for Community Health Promotion -- a Sunnyside-based project of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle -- brought the replica to the Mid-Columbia Libraries Pasco branch, where residents could walk through the 20-foot-long passage and see examples of healthy colon tissue and the progression of colon cancer.
"We're here displaying the colon to bring awareness to colorectal cancer awareness month, which is the month of March," said Monica Escareño, community health promoter for the center. "(People) don't know what it looks like on the inside -- just so you're aware of what a polyp looks like on the inside of a colon, we're showing it to you. ... For a lot of people it's a learning (experience) to say, 'Oh, wow. I could have this inside. I should do prevention.'"
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According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, and is the third leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women.
More than 90 percent of cases -- and deaths -- are in people older than 50, but anyone can get colorectal cancer, and about 75 percent of cases are in people with no family history or predisposing illness, a cancer society report said.
Escareño said the presence of benign polyps, or abnormal growths in the colon, can indicate a risk for developing cancer.
The replica shows what a polyp looks like, and how they can grow out of control and become cancer if left unchecked.
It also emphasizes that screening and early detection can save lives.
Escareño said the goal of the display is for people to walk away understanding more about colon cancer and the importance of screening.
A questionnaire measures each person's knowledge of the colon and colorectal cancer before walking through the display and after.
"We find out what they learned -- will they be more likely to talk to family members about colon cancer, will they be more likely to do screening," Escareño said.
She said some people smirk or snicker at the display, but most people walk away understanding a little more about cancer.
The inflatable colon will be on display today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sunnyside Community Hospital and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at PMH Medical Center in Prosser.
Anyone who visits the display during March can participate in a contest to name the colon.
"We just ask for family friendly language," Escareño said.
-- Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org