Strollin’ Through the Colon: Yes, it’s a thing — and it’s helping Cooperman Barnabas raise awareness about colorectal cancer

It’s OK to laugh when you think about the idea of walking through a 20-foot-long inflatable and interactive replica of the human colon.

Actually, it’s OK to have any reaction — just as long as you’re taking a moment to think about a topic few want to discuss: colorectal cancer awareness. That’s why Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston held an event this week with the eye-catching replica.

So said Dr. Mark Gilder, a colon and rectal surgeon at Cooperman Barnabas and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group.

“It is our hope that this event will help to lessen the fear of colonoscopy by showing the benefits of early detection and polyp removal, greatly improving survival of the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.,” he said.

The statistics around colorectal cancer are telling.

In 2023, approximately 150,000 individuals were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Approximately 50,000 people will die from the disease, including 19,550 cases and 3,750 deaths in individuals younger than 50 years.

Health officials are always working to get this data out to the public, but it gets a greater emphasis in March, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Gilder explained that, through proper screening, doctors can find and remove hidden growths — “polyps” — in the colon, before they become cancerous.

“Sometimes, removing polyps can prevent cancer altogether,” he said.

Free FIT kits, an at-home screening tool for colon cancer, were distributed at the event.

The recommendation is for individuals of average risk of colorectal cancer to begin regular screening at age 45 and those at higher risk to speak to their doctor about getting screened sooner.

Officials said RWJBarnabas Health and Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, are eager to provide close-to-home access to the latest cancer treatment and clinical trials.

To make a screening appointment or learn more about for colorectal cancer, click here.