Why a Colon Cancer Screening Could Save Your Life

Have you ever had a colonoscopy? It’s not fun, nor pleasant. But preparing for the procedure may be more stressful than the procedure itself. In fact, Kristine Layne, chief nursing officer at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin, Minnesota, almost let the fear of preparing for the procedure keep her from having one at the recommended age of 50.

Kristine Layne - Riverwood Healthcare Center

Kristine Layne is pictured next to one of the marketing materials created to educate the public about the importance of colon cancer screenings.

Fortunately, her primary care provider Riverwood Nurse Practitioner Janet Larson insisted that Kristine not delay the screening due to her family’s history of cancer. Kristine ultimately decided to have the screening at the recommended time, a decision she later learned was critical to her health.

Kristine’s colonoscopy revealed a malignant tumor, which was removed by a surgeon at Riverwood Healthcare Center within a week of discovery.

Colon cancer screenings can be life-altering

Ten years later, Kristine has had no recurrence of colon cancer, but her doctors told her that if she’d waited even six more months, it might have been too late.

Stories like Kristine’s and the advocacy provided by Janet led Riverwood Healthcare Center to initiate a public awareness campaign for colon cancer screening. The hospital needed to ensure its community understood that colonoscopies are critical for both women and men at age 50, as the risk for colon cancer increases as our bodies age.

The hospital found great partners in the community to help execute the campaign, including the local chamber of commerce, 16 local businesses, the Aitkin Independent Age newspaper, KKIN radio, as well as the Public Health Unit of Aitkin County Health and Human Services.

Spreading awareness

In January, Riverwood CEO Chad Cooper kicked off the campaign by discussing the importance of colon cancer screenings and healthy lifestyle habits to prevent colon cancer in his quarterly Aitkin Independent Age column. Riverwood also established a Colon Health Nurse toll-free phone line in January, giving local residents an opportunity to talk to a nurse in the surgery department about the entire colonoscopy procedure.

Shirts Plus of Aitkin - Riverwood Healthcare Center Winner

Shirts Plus of Aitkin was recognized by Riverwood Healthcare Center for increasing colon cancer awareness and the importance of screenings in March.

The Aitkin Beanery - Riverwood Healthcare Center Winner

The Aitkin Beanery, a local coffee shop, was one of the recognized businesses by Riverwood Healthcare Center for its efforts to increase colon cancer awareness.

During Colon Cancer Awareness month in March, the hospital and its partners ran a widespread public awareness campaign, featuring a Blue Windows contest, in which local businesses decorated their storefront with the color blue to raise awareness. Real, life-altering patient stories, along with ads, ran in the newspaper and on the radio. Riverwood also took the campaign online, sharing helpful materials to raise awareness on its Facebook page.

Ready to take on the next public health challenge

Riverwood’s public awareness campaign has already yielded great results.

The hospital has performed 12 percent more colonoscopy screenings for colon cancer during Oct. 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015 than it did during the same time period in October 2013 through March 2014.

Most of all, Riverwood Healthcare Center is excited about the public awareness generated by the partnerships with Aitkin’s local businesses, the public health staff and the local media. All parties are eager to work together to promote the next issue to improve the health of their community.

If you are 50 or over, or have a history of colon cancer in your family, talk with your primary care physician or provider. Learn more about colon cancer prevention here.