This year’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month has featured more than its share of creative and enthusiastic campaign work, including the Colon Cancer Coalition’s cheeky “Mission to Uranus” push and the more lyrical approach of Labcorp’s “Make Way for Better.” With the month coming to a close, a third effort — this one specifically about driving awareness of the need for regular colon cancer screenings — has nabbed its own share of attention.
Exact Sciences’ “Mission to Screen” features one of cancer’s best-known and most zealous advocates: Katie Couric, who has sought to educate the public about colon cancer since the death of her first husband, Jay Monahan, in 1998.
“She destigmatized and demystified colon cancer and even had a colonoscopy on national television,” said Exact Sciences VP of marketing Kristen Weiler. “She is a fierce advocate for research and awareness. Joining her to get the word out was a natural fit, not to mention an honor for us.”
Foremost among campaign goals is raising awareness that the recommended age for an initial colorectal screening has been lowered, from 50 to 45. While the American Cancer Society made the adjustment in 2018, word has been slow to get out, due at least in part to the pandemic.
Couric’s near-universal appeal is central to the campaign, which aims to reach a very large target audience: Every person over the age of 45, or around 44 million Americans, who should be screened but haven’t been. The colon cancer screening rate, according to Weiler, has been stagnant at around 60% for some time.
The campaign also makes use of Couric’s singular abilities as an interviewer, as she leads other patients to share their stories on the “Mission to Screen” website and across her own social media channels.
“We all know she is a brilliant interviewer and connects with people. She gets the story out — she gets their stories out — and hopefully it encourages changes in behavior,” said FCB Health New York chief creative officer Kathleen Nanda. Those stories, Nanda noted, come from healthcare providers, patients, survivors and caregivers alike.
In addition to raising awareness of the revised screening guidelines and dispelling colonoscopy myths, “Mission to Screen” highlights a range of safe and effective screening options — not surprisingly, including Exact Sciences’ own product, Cologuard.
The campaign “lets everyone know there are options, and that in conversation with your doctor you can choose the path that is best for you,” Nanda explained. “But it is not an option not to screen.”
As for the month’s handful of high-profile colon cancer-related campaigns, Nanda takes a more-is-more outlook.
“It is a moment in time for colon cancer awareness and the surround sound from all these different entities proves this,” she explained. “It has come out of the shadows a little bit and people feel more comfortable talking about it and thinking about it.”
“Colon cancer is the most preventable but least prevented form of cancer,” Weiler added. “When it is caught early it is highly treatable, but too often it is caught late.”