Area businesses will “Paint the Town Blue” this March — not for Blue Wave pride — but to increase awareness about an illness and potentially save lives.
PBMC Health is teaming up with the Cancer Services Program of Suffolk County and the American Cancer Society to promote a month-long campaign to raise awareness of the importance of colon cancer screening and early detection in hopes of stalling the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer-related death.
Together, they are seeking the support from area businesses to help get their message out.
The organizations will supply businesses with everything they need, from posters and flier information to pins and giveaways — and all it will cost businesses is their time, said Janine Nebons, general manager of Tanger Outlets, who is helping with the campaign. She said the idea of the “Go Blue” campaign is to spread awareness, much like the well-known pink campaign promoting breast cancer awareness.
During the week of March 10, participating businesses are asked to decorate using the color blue and engage employees and customers with the posters, giveaways and educational material.
Colorectal cancer survivor Joseph Abbate said at a breakfast held on Tuesday to announce the event to business owners that he wasn’t worried about getting screened — until his body started telling him he needed to. After having trouble eating for a couple months, he said he finally decided to get screened — yielding a positive result.
With the help of officials at PBMC, he was able to get insurance and has since been treated by Dr. Brett Ruffo, colorectal and general surgeon at the Riverhead hospital.
Now cancer-free, Mr. Abbate said he wishes he’d understood the importance of getting screened earlier — as he might not have needed the number of surgeries and the treatment he underwent.
“I guess there’s a lot of men that don’t think that they need screening, but screening would have helped me to have done away with a lot of the surgeries I had,” Mr. Abbate said. “I procrastinated a bit and didn’t read the signs. I sure wish I would have had one 10 years ago.”
Colon cancer affects both men and women and although it is preventable, treatable and beatable with proper screening, only half of insured adults ages 50 to 75 are up-to-date with colon cancer screenings, according to the American Cancer Society. Only 36 percent of uninsured adults routinely get screened, according to the ACS.
Aside from handing out the giveaways, businesses involved with ‘Paint the Town Blue’ can also come up with creative ideas of their own to help promote awareness.
The Hyatt Place East End, for example, plans to change its outdoor lighting to blue and The Riverhead Project restaurant will offer a special drink called “Bottoms Up,” according to campaign officials.
The participating business will be named in advertisements promoting the event — noting their activity in the community.
“With the support of local businesses, we can help spread this lifesaving message,” said Dr. Clare Bradley of the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Bradley said she, too, has been touched personally by the disease, having lost her brother to colorectal cancer just two weeks ago. She noted that he had been hesitant to get screened.
“We are also working together to provide resources and support for families, friends and loved ones dealing with a colon cancer diagnosis. We are not just providing information — we are providing help and hope,” Dr. Bradley said.
For more information on the campaign or to participate contact Candace Porter at 631-548-6080 or [email protected]. Those in need of screening information should call the hospital’s Cancer Services Program at 631-548-6320.