Matt Knutson: Inform others about preventing colon cancer

Published 10:09 am Friday, March 3, 2017

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.

“It’s too early to start counting down to Christmas,” I told my wife. She had just for some unknown reason exclaimed to our daughter that it was almost Christmas, so I felt the need to remind her that we’re actually closer to last Christmas than this upcoming Christmas. I suppose there’s no harm in countdowns, even if they are particularly long.

The season of Lent began this week with Christians across the globe beginning a 40-day journey concluding with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter. It’s a much briefer countdown than my wife’s, though I think few people actually view Lent as a countdown. You probably wouldn’t find a Lent calendar like you would for Advent, with little children eagerly opening the next day to pick out a piece of chocolate. This liturgical season is much more reflective. You often hear of people giving something up or fasting during these 40 days as they journey towards a better self.

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Pope Francis had this to say at the Ash Wednesday service of Lent this year, “Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.” Whether you identify as a person of faith or not, I hope you can appreciate this sentiment of caring for your neighbor. I dream of a day when we all might spend a dedicated season in our life focusing more on the needs of others.

Coinciding with Ash Wednesday was the beginning of another countdown that is focused on changing lives. Wednesday marked the return of colon cancer awareness month, and numerous health care and cancer-fighting organizations teamed together for a campaign counting down to 2018. The group of more than 1,000 organizations, brought together by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, is aiming to get 80 percent of adults age 50 or older screened for colon cancer by 2018. It’s a lofty goal, but progress is being made.

In 2002, that number was only 54 percent. By 2014, it had jumped to 64 percent. With more people actively sharing the message, 80 percent isn’t out of the question. Screening saves lives, and often in the case of colon cancer, allows for early detection of a disease that does not need to be so deadly. The roundtable shared that an estimated 203,000 colorectal cancer deaths would be prevented by 2030 if we reached that 80 percent goal. That’s a huge milestone in the fight against the second-leading cause of cancer death in this country.

We can all play a role in saving lives. While they’re counting down to 2018, someone you know could be screened next week because of your prompting. If you’re looking for a way to give back and may not have the finances to donate to your favorite charity or the time for a volunteer commitment, you can always be an advocate. Encourage your loved ones over the age of 50 to get screened, and tell others to do the same. Put it out on Facebook, put a sign out at the office or tell a stranger on the street. There’s no better feeling than knowing you saved someone’s life because their doctor caught something early in their colon cancer screening.

A countdown for colon cancer screening may not be as exciting as one for Christmas, and I may not find my wife singing about it in the middle of March, but it’s still essential to making a difference in your community. That’s why I write about it every March. Give back this month by joining the #80by2018 countdown.