ORLANDO, FL—A walk-through colon is creating the buzz needed to help a hospital in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, achieve its goal of having 80% of the population screened for colon cancer by 2018, according to a presentation at the ONS 40th Annual Congress.

“Colorectal cancer is too often diagnosed as a late-stage disease,” said Heather Askren, NP-C, RN, OCN®, of Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health, Lafayette, Indiana, of Tippecanoe County. Data showed that 45% of patients had their colon cancer diagnosed as stage 3 or higher.

To work toward the goal, a team comprised of an oncology nurse, staff nurse, cancer registrar, surgeon, social worker, and administration member was created to find the best way to educate people about colon cancer. “The team wanted to try new education tools and explored the possibility of a walk-through educational colon,” she said. “With the assistance of the hospital foundation department, it was decided to apply for a grant for funding.”

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In spring 2014, funding was approved to buy the walk-through colon. “We decided to buy the largest colon available,” said Askren. The colon is 10 feet tall, 12 feet  wide, 20 feet long,  and weighs approximately 180 lb, and it has space inside for up to eight educational areas.

“With the help of the surgeon, we decided to display normal colon tissue, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, polyp, malignant polyp, colon cancer, advanced cancer, and keeping your colon healthy,” Askren reported. “At each station is a description of the disease state. There are many people in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties that speak little to no English, so it was decided that descriptions of each disease state should also be presented in Spanish.”

Within 24 hours of the colon’s first display—for hospital employees to start a buzz on the new educational tool—requests started coming in to bring the display to businesses, churches, and social clubs.

As visitors exit the colon, they are offered a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit, handouts from the American Cancer Society, and information on about scheduling an outpatient appointment for a colonoscopy.

Visitors often ask which test is better: colonoscopy, FOBT, or fecal immunochemical test (FIT). “I tell them the best test is the one that gets done!” said Askren.