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Runners raise awareness about colon cancer

March 24, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — Many people do not like to talk about colon cancer, so the Boxer Rebellion 5k fun run is a good way to raise awareness of a disease that can be prevented, if caught early.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the event helps to bring attention to the disease.

Dr. A.J. Magana said a lot of people know someone who has or has had cancer and the Boxer Rebellion is a way to support them and make other people more aware of colon and other cancers. Runners and walkers don costumes as they walk for a cause.

“We have families affected by colon cancer that run,” said Lucrecia Spady, director of services at Scottsbluff Surgery Center, a department of Regional West Medical Center. “We also have people who had a loved one who went through it or maybe they received a donation from Festival of Hope to get through it.”

The Festival of Hope is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help cancer patients who live in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming with non-medical expenses as they relate to their cancer care and treatment.

Many people attend the event each year.

“We see repeat runners,” said Joni Bruce, endoscopy charge nurse at the Scottsbluff Surgery Center. “We do it to raise money for the Festival of Hope.”

Statistically, everyone has a 4.5 percent chance of developing colon cancer. Colon cancer is completely preventable and curable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Screening can find precancerous polyps — abnormal growths in the colon or rectum — so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure.

Larry and Scott Alwin were there, partly to get some exercise, but also to raise awareness and help the Festival of Hope.

“His (Larry’s) mom had colon cancer,” Scott Alwin said. “She was able to catch it early and she’s now cancer-free.”

If you have no risk factors, Magana recommends starting screenings at age 45. If you have risk factors, such as inflammatory bowel diseases or a family history of cancer, you should be screened every 10 years. If you have a family member who has had colon cancer, you should get screened when you are 10 years younger than when they were diagnosed.

Not everyone goes for a checkup when it is recommended. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, Magana said.

“This year, there will be 152,000 new cases,” Magana said. “Every year, about 50,000 people die.”

Charmaine Uhrig was participating to remember her daughter Steffe Evans, who died from colon cancer. She was walking with Evans’ two friends, Heather Lacy and Leann McCoy.

“I did it last year as well,” Lacy said. “I do it to support her, to carry on and to remember and support the cause.”

Uhrig said Evans died at age 38, well under the recommended age to be screened. By the time the cancer was detected, it was too late. Now they walk to remember her and to raise awareness about the importance of being checked.

“I’m here to remember her and to have a good time visiting and to have good memories,” McCoy said.

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