Wear pink! We’ve all seen the signs, and many of us have worn pink clothing and ribbons each October during Breast Cancer Awareness month. But dress in blue? What’s that all about?
Last April,in a post here entitled, The One We Don’t Like to Talk About, I announced that I was a one year colon cancer survivor. I’m now edging up on my two-year anniversary (and am currently remembering in vivid detail the horrid weeks leading up to my eventual diagnosis and surgery). So for me, this seems like the perfect time to focus attention once again on colon cancer, because this Friday is Dress in Blue Day, and March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
Just as the focus on wearing pink has been used to draw attention to breast cancer, the aim of Dress in Blue Day is to promote awareness of colon cancer, and to encourage more individuals to get the tests that can detect colon cancer in its very early stages.
No, colon cancer isn’t as easy to talk about as breast cancer, and its definitely not one that we as women rally around. In fact, one of the counselors I saw at the local cancer center talked about breast cancer survivor envy. This is the envy that some women survivors of other cancers — such as colon cancer — feel for all of the attention focused on breast cancer. For women of a certain age, the situation is rather ironic. Not all that long ago, no one liked to talk about breast cancer either. Rates of mammograms were lower, the treatments were pretty scary, and the survival rates weren’t that great. Fortunately, things are different now.
I’m delighted at the progress made with breast cancer; I have benefited from it personally. In addition to being a two-year colon cancer survivor, this summer I will be an eleven-year breast cancer survivor. Thanks to the progress made during my lifetime, my breast cancer was detected early — very early — and I had a relatively easy treatment. None of those things were available for women 30 or 40 years ago. I hope to see similar progress for colon cancer.
But to get that progress, we have to talk openly about colon cancer. Based on previous reader surveys, the majority of AAR’s readers aren’t yet old enough for the initial screenings for colon cancer. The standard recommendation now is to have a first colonoscopy at 50, unless there’s a history of colon cancer in your family. But if you’re not personally old enough yet for the tests, you can still talk to your parents, or grandparents, or aunts and uncles about it. Ask them if they’ve had their first colonoscopy. If not, encourage them to talk to their doctor about it.
Can wearing blue this Friday make a difference? Frankly, anything that gets more people talking about colon cancer has to help. So I’ll be wearing blue, and I’ll be telling people why I’m wearing it. After all, when people first started wearing pink ribbons, I thought it was a bit silly. I was wrong.