For the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, there’s no more important month during the year than March.

As part of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the Alliance is teaming with the American Cancer Society on a collaborative marketing effort.

This month, the two healthcare organizations are rolling out Your Colon is 45, a co-branded, social media-led campaign to educate Americans about colon health, the risks associated with colon cancer and available screening options. 

Consumers are encouraged to for resources on how to prevent colon cancer as well as a personalized screening quiz, a doctor locator and even an e-card people can send to friends and family in an effort to get them screened.

Colorectal Cancer Alliance campaign image
Image used with permission.

This marks the first campaign since colorectal cancer-screening guidelines were revised last year to recommend average-risk adults undergo a colonoscopy at 45 rather than 50.

Colon cancer remains a significant problem as it is the third-most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women (outside of skin cancers) and increasingly present in younger patients.

Angie Lawry, SVP of marketing and communications for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, tells MM+M that Your Colon is 45 is largely targeted at aging millennials and seeks to reduce the stigma around colonoscopies and increase screening by normalizing the procedure for this cohort.

Lawry adds that conducting this as a social media-focused campaign is a more cost-effective way to reach the target audience — many of whom are digital natives to begin with. Being able to leverage ACS’ considerable online profile and reach a wider audience also helps, too.

“This is on the radar of not just people under 50 or 45, but even people who are younger than that,” she says. “These people are starting to pay attention and say, ‘OK, this cancer is rising in younger people and we don’t know why. But I can go and get checked out and make sure that I’m OK.’”

The Cologuard come-up

She notes the proliferation of at-home screening options, such as FIT or Cologuard, that can improve access to tests that can lead to earlier detection and treatment.

Noting that the tests have different levels of complexity — in addition to price point — Lawry says the organization has been working hard to promote these as options for average-risk adults who don’t have a family history of disease or any symptoms, but should still get checked out because of their age.

The Alliance has prior experience marketing Cologuard as well.

Over the winter, the Alliance worked with actor Ryan Reynolds’ creative agency Maximum Effort and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on the Lead From Behind campaign to promote colon cancer awareness.

In addition to Prescott, actor Terry Crews reprised his role as President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho from the 2006 movie Idiocracy as he received a colonoscopy in a four-minute campaign video last year.

This also comes one year after the Alliance rolled out its But, Stuff PSA, which approached the topic of colon health in a lighted-hearted way.

Breaking down stigmas

“Colorectal cancer has a marketing problem,” Lawry says, as it’s a disease that few want to talk about and may not fully understand.

While colorectal cancer may not receive the same attention as breast or lung cancer, Lawry says these consumer-facing campaigns have made a difference in reducing stigma and opening up the conversation.

Lawry says that the Alliance and its partners want to keep people talking about colorectal cancer so that it moves the dial on screening rates. In an ideal world, she says, talking about colonoscopies would be as commonplace as women asking each other if they’ve gotten their mammograms.

In the absence of a widespread embrace of screenings that can prevent death from a highly treatable and highly survivable disease, the organization plans on sticking to its messaging.

“Unfortunately, it’s sad that we all have to be talking about it, but the only way that we are going to reduce the numbers, the incidence and the mortality rates is to get people talking about it and to get them to go get screened,” she says. 

For a March 2024 article about Atlantic Health System’s colorectal cancer push, click here.