During colon cancer awareness month, larger-than-life inflatable colon offers conversation starter

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A giant section of an inflatable colon on one of the busiest corners in Westwood got some looks and that's the whole idea.

"There's definitely an ick factor," UCLA Health's Dr. Fola May said. "People don't like talking about the rectum or their stool. But the problem is people are dying from these disease. Over 50,000 American each year."

Dan Seber could have been one of those people. He had no symptoms, but because of his age, he decided to follow his doctor's recommendation and get a colonoscopy.

"And they found some precancerous cells," Seber said.

May said screening is prevention and that colon cancer is one of the few cancers we can prevent.

"Had nobody bothered to take a look, I definitely would have had cancer by now," Seber said.

May takes passersby on a tour inside the inflatable colon and touches different parts of the walls that show polyps and cancer cells.

"Normal colonic tissue looks like this. It's pink. It's pretty it's smooth. No bumps," she said.

May said think of the polyps as pimples. Most of the time they're harmless, but sometimes they can turn into cancerous polyps.

"This over here is what colon cancer looks like," she said. "Abnormal cells invading the lining of the colon."

May recommends baseline screening at age 50 for people with no family history. The American Cancer Society suggests people should start at age 45.

"We are seeing an uptick in the number of people under 45 getting colon cancer," she said.

May said 40 percent of Americans do not get colonoscopies. Seber said that's a big mistake.

"Knowledge is better than not knowing at all," he said. "And that allows you to cure this, if you catch it early enough."

The worst part about a colonoscopy is probably all the fluids you have to drink the day before, but there's a positive side to it.

"It's a free cleanse," May said, "I know people who pay money for cleanses. It's pretty much the same thing."
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