Columbia, S.C. – With studies showing that only half to two-thirds of South Carolinians aged 50 and older get preventive colon cancer screenings, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina today launched the next stage in a multi-year campaign to raise awareness of this prevalent but preventable disease.
The company issued a three-way challenge — to its own workforce and two of the state’s largest employers, Milliken & Company in Spartanburg and Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center (GHS) in Greenville. The goal is to increase the rate of preventive colon cancer screenings. At each company, less than 50 percent of employees over age 50 have had preventive screenings. The company that improves its rate the most during the next year will be recognized.
BlueCross kicked off the challenge with an exhibit open to BlueCross employees and the media at one of its larger office buildings in Columbia, on Percival Road. Employees toured the “Prevent Cancer Super ColonTM”, an inflatable, walk-through replica of a human colon provided by the Prevent Cancer Foundation. The interactive tool, 20 feet long and 8 feet high, teaches that colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable. West Columbia-based gastroenterologist Dr. March Seabrook, conducted “lunch and learn” sessions for employees. BlueCross Vice President for Clinical Quality and Health Management Dr. Laura Long was on hand to promote awareness and answer questions.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in South Carolina and the United States. People may not notice symptoms of early colon cancer or even polyps — precancerous growths on the inside lining of the colon. But screening can prevent cancer by letting doctors remove the polyps before they become malignant. Most colon cancer cases are detected after age 50, which is why screening is recommended then.
“In South Carolina, only half to two-thirds of the eligible population get preventive screenings for colon cancer. This silent killer has brought South Carolina’s research community, physicians and the insurance provider together to tackle the issue. Today we challenge Milliken and GHS to join us in making a difference by seeing who can make the biggest improvement in their screening rates for employees over age 50,” Dr. Long said.
“This is one of the most preventable cancers,” Dr. Seabrook said. “This year, South Carolina will have about 2,000 new cases of colon cancer and over 800 deaths. I appreciate the commitment of BlueCross and the other large employers for tackling this critical issue in the work place.”
Milliken and GHS accepted the corporate challenge.
“It’s important that we all do what we can to care for ourselves and our loved ones by using technology to prevent disease and suffering,” said Doug Dorman, GHS vice president of human resources. “We can improve our odds for long life and long-term health. We want to encourage our employees and their family members, as well as the members of our community, to take advantage of this opportunity to help beat colon cancer.”
"Milliken readily accepts the challenge because we also believe early detection is the most important safeguard in curing this type of cancer. If this friendly challenge results in just a few more screenings and averted deaths from colon cancer, the effort is worth it," said Richard Dillard, Milliken's Director of Public Affairs.
BlueCross has been engaged for three years in a campaign called “Love Your Colon” along with the South Carolina Gastroenterology Association, the University of South Carolina’s Center for Colon Cancer Research, CVS Caremark and Genentech.
Over the past three years, BlueCross has supported S.C. colon cancer prevention efforts with grants for screenings in the uninsured and with sponsorships such as the “Drive Out Colon Cancer Weekend” featuring Major League Baseball All-Star Eric Davis, a colon cancer survivor, at Greenville Drive baseball games. BlueCross also provided toolkits including posters and other communications for group accounts to distribute to their employees.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., and operating in South Carolina for nearly 65 years, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The only South Carolina-owned and operated health insurance carrier, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina comprises more than 45 companies involved in health insurance services, U.S. DoD health program and Medicare contracts, other insurance and employee benefits services, and a philanthropic foundation that funds programs to improve health care and access to health care for South Carolinians.