BILLINGS — A new immersive experience at this year's Yellowstone Relay for Life is giving participants the chance to see what doctors see inside the colon when performing a colonoscopy.
Colon cancer is the second most common type of cancer, and health experts say this is an important opportunity.
“This is a giant inflatable walk-through colon,” says Dr. Keri Hill, gastroenterologist at St. Vincent Healthcare.
It’s not every day you get a chance to walk through a human body, specifically a colon, but at this year’s Yellowstone Relay for Life, participants can cross that off the bucket list at the Billings West High School track.
“Our team will be out at Relay for Life talking with patients and with anybody who’s interested about the importance of colonoscopy and colon cancer screening. And to walk them through our inflatable colon to show them what we are looking for,” says Hill.
When participants walk through, they’ll see healthy colon tissue, pre-cancerous polyps and those polyps growing and turning into cancer. It’s a larger-than-life visual, reminding people to get screened starting at age 45, something one St. Vincent Healthcare employee recently did with Hill.
“Dr. Hill found quite a large polyp when she did my colonoscopy, and I was relieved to find out mine was pre-cancerous rather than cancerous,” says Kristin Mattingly, St. Vincent Healthcare employee.
“Just do it. Get your colonoscopy done so we can take care of things in advance rather than later when the colon cancer is more advanced and difficult to treat,” encourages Dr. Hill.
Hill will be among the thousands participating in this year’s relay, an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, a celebration for cancer survivors and a push for participants to get screened.
"When I got my results, I was so relieved it really hit home. This procedure saved my life,” says Mattingly. "Had I waited, had I delayed getting the screening done, my story would be totally different. I may not be here."
A good reminder, and one now magnified by this larger-than-life experience, allowing a first-hand look inside the colon.
Yellowstone Relay for Life kicks off Friday, July 14 at the West High track with a survivor lap at 6:45 p.m. Anyone is invited to attend to support survivors and caregivers and to help raise money for the American Cancer Society.