Increased colon cancer screening rate in Utah brings award

Apr 19 2012 - 9:21pm

OGDEN -- When it comes to colon cancer awareness, Utah has made great strides.

For its effective work to increase colon cancer awareness, the Utah Cancer Control Program and Utah Cancer Action Network were presented with a national award.

The Program Delivery Award is given to an organization or coalition that has developed and implemented a program that successfully reduces the burden of chronic disease. UCCP and UCAN, which are run through the Utah Department of Health, have been involved in educational campaigns since 2003. Those campaigns have contributed to higher colon cancer screening rates and improved health behaviors in the community, according to the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, a nonprofit public health organization that presented the award.

"Colon cancer screening rates in Utah have increased by 34 percent since the campaign's inception," said state epidemiologist, Dr. Robert Rolfs. "From 2000 to 2009, the number of colorectal cancer cases decreased more than 28 percent and the number of deaths decreased 35 percent."

One of the media campaigns recognized for its educational efforts involved Kaysville resident Karen Coleman, who filmed a television commercial after her father, Doug Miller, died from the disease.

"He had never been screened for colon cancer," Coleman said. "I have no answer as to why he was never tested, but if I had known, I would have pestered him to do it."

Miller, a Utah sports and outdoors broadcaster, woke up one morning complaining of a minor stomachache, Coleman said. Twenty-one days later he was dead from colon cancer.

"He never knew he had colon cancer, because by the time we found out, he had slipped into a coma," Coleman said. "He was 58 years old when he died, and if he had gotten a colonoscopy at 50, he would be alive today."

Coleman said because of her father's situation, she decided to get involved in the campaign to increase awareness about colon cancer.

"I don't want anyone else to go through what my father went through and what our family went through," she said. "Colon cancer is a horrific disease. I know it's no fun to go through the test, but it's really not that bad, and it's worth an evening of prep time and the 35 minutes it takes to do the test."

Coleman has filmed two more commercials soon to be aired on television. One deals with how much she has missed her father.

"I talk about my oldest son, Jack, and how he got his hunter safety this year and got to go duck hunting," she said. "It was a wonderful experience, but I couldn't help thinking about how much fun it would have been to have had Grandpa Doug there."

Coleman said the award is prestigious because 3,000 chronic-disease practitioners from across the nation were involved in choosing Utah as the winner.

"Representatives from the CDC and other health organizations were there as well, so it was really a testimony to the great work that has been done to make a difference," she said.

Dr. David Patton, executive director at UDOH said although the award speaks of great success, there's still work to be done.

"Our goal is for all Utahns age 50 or older to get a colonoscopy."

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