70x2020 Initiative asks adults to #getscreened4dak
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Having performed colonoscopies regularly throughout his career, retired gastroenterologist Dr. Sam Pace is experienced in identifying precursors of colorectal cancer.
Although he did not feel any of those symptoms himself in 2011, Pace learned after a routine screening that he had the disease.
"My story is effective when I talk to patients who say they feel fine and nothing is going to happen to them," Pace said. "I felt fine before I found out I had colon cancer. Fortunately, I was screened early enough to treat and survive it."
Fewer than 60 percent of Mississippians who should get colorectal screenings actually get them -- a statistic that Pace joins elite company in trying to change.
More than 525 private organizations, public agencies, health care providers and individuals across the state are members of the Mississippi 70x2020 Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative. They are working together to reduce the number of deaths caused by the disease each year.
Dak Prescott, former Mississippi State University and current Dallas Cowboys football quarterback, is the face of this year’s campaign to get the word out about 70x2020 and its goals. Prescott lost his mother to the disease in 2013. The 70x2020 Initiative is promoting the hashtag #getscreened4dak on social media to raise awareness.
“Get screened. It’s the right thing to do,” Prescott said. “Stop it before it happens. Catch it early. Do it for yourself, and do it for your loved ones around you.”
The initiative, which began in 2014, is an effort to have at least 70 percent of eligible Mississippians screened by 2020. The American Cancer Society and the MSU Extension Service are collaborating with the initiative to step up publicity efforts in March as part of National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
Ann Sansing, Mississippi 70x2020 Communication Task Force chair and community health coordinator for the MSU Extension Service, said the general public is as much a part of the initiative as its membership because it plays a major role in spreading awareness of the disease and prevention.
“If you’ve just turned 50 years old, it is time to do something for your health and make an appointment to get screened. Text relatives, friends or co-workers and encourage them to do the same,” Sansing said. “Colorectal cancer is preventable, but it is going to take everyone raising awareness to help save lives. Social media is the next best thing to being there. Take the next few seconds and post a reminder to your followers to get screened.”
Dr. Roy Duhe, organizer of the 70x2020 Initiative and associate director for cancer education of the University of Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Institute, led efforts to mobilize Mississippians through a media launch at the state Capitol in March 2015. Doctors often diagnose colon cancer in patients when it is already advanced and more difficult to treat, Duhe said. This is one reason why national guidelines recommend adults have their first colorectal screening at age 50.
“Mississippi has the highest colorectal cancer death rate in the U.S., largely because Mississippians are not getting screened,” Duhe said. “Having Dak Prescott as a spokesperson for colorectal cancer screening is so important because we are trying to reach out to middle-aged men who love football. These men are a major component of the unscreened population.”
“Because Dak’s story of losing his mother at such a young age is so moving, we hope that moms, too, will be motivated to get screened to keep their children from having to go through what Dak and his family experienced. And, we hope Dak’s example will encourage young people to talk to their parents and grandparents about getting screened,” said Elizabeth Gregory North, head of MSU Extension’s Agricultural Communications unit, which produced the ads. “Dak’s story has appeal to so many different people, and we are very grateful that he was willing to share it.”
Contact: Ann Sansing, 662-325-4043; Dr. Roy Duhe, 601-984-1625