AS I SEE IT: Observe National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month


Observe National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Spread the word to raise awareness

As I See It

Encourage people in your community to talk about the risks of colon cancer and discuss the importance of getting screened starting at age 50.


Observe National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Spread the word to raise awareness

In February 2000, President Bill Clinton officially dedicated the month of March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Since then, it has grown to be a true rallying point for the colon cancer community. Every year, thousands of patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates throughout the community join together to spread colon cancer awareness by wearing blue, holding fundraising and educational events, and talking to friends and family about screening.

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March presents two important opportunities for everyone in the business of health care to (1) provide information to our communities regarding colon cancer and (2) promote awareness of our roles with regard to colorectal cancer screening, prevention and treatment.

What can you do to observe Colon Cancer Awareness Month?

Talk About It

Encourage people in your community to talk about the risks of colon cancer and discuss the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50.

Send out newsletters or postcards to those in your area. Place flyers in areas that will attract attention: doctors’ offices, local hospitals, grocery stores, banks, community centers, health clubs, etc. Be active in community groups; join a Chamber of Commerce or disease awareness group where you can promote the message of awareness. Send out press releases to the local media or place ads in various publications that will hit your target audience. Use local television, radio, newspapers, community calendars and even your own website or blog to promote awareness.

Each year, more and more celebrities—from Katie Couric and Terrance Howard to Morgan Freeman and Meryl Streep—are coming forward to advocate for colon cancer awareness. They are spreading the message: Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the US, but it is largely preventable. Encourage the use of colorectal cancer screening conversation starters and distribute questions to ask your doctor—talking points between a patient and his or her physician that might help to ease the patient’s fears of not knowing what to ask or where to begin. Questions such as: What screening test(s) do you recommend for me? How do I prepare? What is involved in the test? Is there any risk involved?

Distribute Colon Cancer Awareness Materials

Various organizations supporting colon cancer awareness have free materials available for use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has numerous materials available free of charge as part of its CDC’s Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign. Resources include print materials—fact sheets, brochures and posters—and television and radio public service announcements.

The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) developed the Blue Star/March Marketing Kit for use by its members to help promote National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the Blue Star, the universal symbol for colon cancer awareness. The kit includes templates for pins, magnets, postcards, banners and radio public service announcements.

The National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA) is dedicated to the eradication of colorectal cancer by promoting the importance of early medical screening and funding research to develop better tests, treatments and, ultimately, a cure. The initiative was co-founded in March 2000 by Katie Couric, Lilly Tartikoff and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF).

Want materials more specific to your practice or center? Create your own. For 2018, Physicians Endoscopy developed a new Colon Cancer Awareness marketing initiative for each of its centers to be handed out to patients and patient caregivers. The main goal of the piece is to help patients develop a better understanding of the difference between a screening colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy.

Go Social

Tweet about colorectal cancer prevention to your peers. Post articles and informative videos on your center’s Facebook page. Use social media platforms as a means of sharing your knowledge of ways to prevent colon cancer and why others should screen for it. Share facts, recipes, health tips, health insurance coverage information to those you know. Do your part to spread the word.

Participate in Colon Cancer Awareness Events

Dress in Blue Day: This year, national Dress in Blue Day is Friday, March 2, 2018. Encourage others to do the same to show their support. For example, businesses can allow their employees to wear jeans and a blue T-shirt instead of their usual uniforms. Some people raise awareness and show support for friends or family members who have suffered or are suffering from colon cancer by wearing a shirt that says, “I’m blue for my son” or, “I’m blue for Mike."

The Undy 5000: Created by the Colon Cancer Alliance, the Undy 500 is a 5k run/walk where participants are encouraged to run in their boxers to bring attention to the area affected by colon cancer. Events can be found across the US.

Get Your Rear in Gear: In partnership with the Colon Cancer Coalition, Get Your Rear in Gear (GYRIG) 5K Run/Walks can be found in communities across the US. Celebrating 10 years of achievement in 2014, Get Your Rear in Gear is a grassroots movement created to drive home the importance of colorectal screening. “Get educated. Get screened” is its motto. Find a race in your area.

Take Steps, Be Heard for Crohn’s & Colitis: This Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s (CCFA) event is one of the largest fundraising and awareness programs for the more than 1.4 million American adults and children affected by digestive diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Find out where the next walk will be.

Create Your Own

Don’t see a colon cancer awareness event in your area? Host your own. In part with the Colon Cancer Coalition, Get Your Rear in Gear has the option of starting your own race. Submit your request. Have a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month event at your ASC. Hold an open house or a general community health fair at your center. Give out information about screenings and talk about the importance of getting screened. Organizing and planning the event is crucial. It is important to identify your audience, plan your program, send out invitations and market your event accordingly, as well as to reach out to media to spread the word before the day of the event. Identify public policy officials who help support the cause—everyone from state and local department staff to your governor, state legislators and members of Congress. The more widespread the support, the greater the outreach of awareness.

Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle

Encourage families to get active together. Exercise might help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Offer a healthy cook book to patients as a giveaway or center promotion. Direct them toward personal health tools such as keeping a daily food and activity diary, using a fiber calculator, using physical activity/fitness assessment tools (such as Fitbit or Fuel Band), using phone apps that track diet and fitness (such as Diet Assistant or My Fitness Pal), or using the Colorectal Cancer Assessment risk calculator.

Offer a Free Screening

Many of the New York-based centers that partner with Physicians Endoscopy have developed a robust charitable care program with the mission of providing free colorectal care screening and surveillance to uninsured individuals. Since its launch in 2012, the goal of the program has been to provide free colonoscopy screening to uninsured patients, covering the entire service fee from anesthesia to pathology.

For insured patients, discuss health coverage. Patients may qualify for a free screening under their health insurance plan and might not even know it. As deductibles and overall patient liability rise, patients determine what health care needs are most important and balance this with financial realities. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires health care insurance plans to cover preventative services—without any cost sharing— for patients between the ages of 50 and 75. Medicare, however, does not follow the same guidelines but does cover a screening in full when the procedure does not result with a diagnostic maneuver. In either case, verification of benefits plays a crucial role in screening. Screening colonoscopies could save patients cash and potentially their lives.


Annie Sariego, CASC, is an ASCAPAC board member and senior vice president of operations at Physicians Endoscopy in Jamison, Pennsylvania. Write her at Lori Trzcinski is the marketing manager at Physicians Endoscopy. Write her at


The advice and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not represent official Ambulatory Surgery Center Association policy or opinion.