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Inflatable colon tour spreads cancer awareness in Wasatch County

Intermountain Healthcare's inflatable colon spreads cancer awareness in Wasatch County.
Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare's inflatable colon spreads cancer awareness in Wasatch County.

Colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers and the only way to detect it is through screening. The public is invited to walk through an inflatable colon Friday in Heber City to learn more about how to reduce the risk.

Intermountain Health’s “Let’s Get to the Bottom of Colon Cancer” giant inflatable colon tour is a unique community colorectal cancer awareness campaign.

The giant inflatable colon tour is traveling to 21 hospitals and clinics in Utah and Idaho over 30 days, bringing with it vital awareness about colon cancer and the importance of potentially life-saving screenings during Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

FULL INTERVIEW: Dr. Greg Tayler on colon cancer risks

The tour is an interactive opportunity for the public to see what it looks like inside a human colon, a view not many people get to see. Dr. Greg Tayler, a family physician at the Heber City clinic who has performed thousands of colonoscopies over the last 25 years, hasn’t walked through it but has seen the photos.

“What I know is it’s a 12-by-12 huge inflatable colon that you can walk through and it has it's kind of an interactive system and has just a lot of the things that you might see, that we might see, as we do colonoscopies kind of in larger-than-life form," Tayler said. "So, there are like small polyps in there that you can look at and different types of diseases that they have shown up on the walls of the colon. It looks pretty interesting.”

Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States and this year 153,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer.

What’s changing, Dr. Tayler said, is that even as the overall rate of colon cancer in the U.S. is decreasing, the number of colon cancers in younger people, those in their upper 40s and early 50s, is increasing. People with an average risk of colon cancer should start their screenings at age 45.

“All colon cancer start as polyps in the colon and these polyps then can slowly progress to colon cancer," Tayler said. "Now, not all polyps do progress into colon cancer but a certain small percentage do. The idea behind colonoscopy and behind screening is that if we look in the colon and find these polyps before they've even turned into cancer, we actually are taking away that patient's risk for colon cancer.”

He said a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is the best way to keep colons healthy.

“Sometimes when we do colonoscopies, we do find early colon cancers that were unexpected," Tayler said. "Oftentimes, if you catch this at the early stage, then it's just a matter of removing that section of colon, which sounds big, but actually, it's done nowadays almost as an outpatient procedure or one night in the hospital. And sometimes that's all it takes to solve the problem. Once the colon cancer has started to invade the walls of the colon and especially started to metastasize to lymph nodes and other organs, it's really too late to do anything at that point.”

The inflatable colon will be available to walk through Friday at the Heber City Hospital from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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