Big Ten basketball teams battle it out on the hardcourt each March in hopes of making it to the madness that’s the national tournament, but this year the institutions are setting aside their rivalries to team up for “Screening Madness.”
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month tips off each March, and the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium and the Blue Hat Foundation, a Chicago-based colorectal cancer organization founded by colorectal cancer survivor Candace Henley, are uniting to raise awareness of the disease with a goal of increasing screenings. Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum, and nearly always develops from precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths. Screening tests can locate precancerous polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer, and the tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatments are more successful.
A special webpage, bigtencrc.org/ScreeningMadness, has been designed and placed on the CRC website that contains a playbook to educate individuals on the importance of colorectal cancer screening. Individuals are urged to take the pledge to “get screened for colorectal cancer, or to encourage someone else age 45 or older to get screened.” When signing the pledge, they can designate a Big Ten team they want it to count towards. A scoreboard with all of the institutions that provide screenings will be updated daily to see which team is in the lead. The institution with the most screenings at the end of March will be declared the winner.
An avid sports fan, Henley watched events throughout the years highlighting breast cancer, but she found that colorectal cancer awareness lacking. Since Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month coincides with the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) annual basketball tournament, she believed it was the opportunity she was seeking to disseminate information on the disease. After receiving a favorable response from administrators at the University of Illinois Cancer Center on her ideas, she approached the directors at the Big Ten CRC, who were equally as enthusiastic.
“As a colorectal cancer survivor, I know it’s a serious disease, but we also wanted to make the event fun,” said Henley, who was diagnosed with the disease 17 years ago. “The competition during a Big Ten basketball game can be intense, but here the spirit of competition is friendly, because when it comes to battling colorectal cancer, we’re all on the same team.”
The website also contains links that will direct individuals to each Big Ten institution that offers screenings. Individuals are also encouraged to post photographs on their social media sites (Twitter and Facebook) wearing a piece of royal blue (the official color of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, as well as the Blue Hat Foundation) clothing. The photographs should contain the phrase #ShowYourBlue.
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 104,270 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in 2021, and 45,230 new cases of rectal cancer. The rate of people being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer each year has dropped overall since the mid-1980s, mainly because more people are getting screened, and changing their lifestyle-risk factors, such as exercising more and eating a healthier diet, the ACS said.
The CRC website also contains a playbook with 15 important facts about colorectal cancer, providing statistics on prevalence of the disease in the Black community, as well as signs and symptoms of the disease, among other information.