March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute is ramping up ongoing efforts to bring awareness to this very common type of cancer.

Colon and rectal cancers are one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in areas of northeastern Pennsylvania, with incidence rates 23 percent above the national average and mortality rates as high as 16 percent above the national average. Approximately 1,165 new cases are diagnosed and about 400 patients die from colon cancer each year in Bradford, Carbon, Lehigh, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne and Wyoming counties combined.

One of the largest Cancer Institute efforts to combat this disease is an event called CASUAL ("Colon Cancer Awareness Saves Unlimited Adult Lives") Day. The event, which will take place on Thursday, March 21, is a dress-down day held to raise awareness about the importance of screening and early detection. On this day, participants dress "CASUAL" while wearing a specially designed pin or custom T-shirt to promote awareness about colon cancer.

CASUAL Day is held each year in memory of Helen Phillips, a local woman who passed away from cancer in 2002. In 2003, Helen's family and friends approached the Cancer Institute to undertake a community awareness initiative to promote colorectal cancer screening - a preventative act which might have saved Helen's life. In 2012, more than 6,000 people participated in this event and over the last ten years, more than 41,000 individuals have helped raise awareness.

On CASUAL Day, and throughout the year, the Cancer Institute reminds at-risk individuals (individuals age 50 or older, anyone with Crohn's Disease or ulcerative colitis and anyone who has had polyps of the colon or a close relative with colon polyps or colon cancer) to talk to their doctor about getting screened for this disease. When colon cancer is found early, the chances of being cured are very good. Often, there are no symptoms for colon cancer, so it is important to get screened on a regular basis.

You can also help spread the important message of colorectal cancer awareness by getting involved in CASUAL Day 2013. Contact the Cancer Institute today at (800) 424-6724 to purchase an awareness T-shirt for $15 or awareness pin for $5. On Thursday, March 21, dress CASUAL and spread the word about colon cancer awareness. Proceeds from CASUAL Day benefit the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute's efforts to raise colorectal cancer awareness and support colorectal cancer screenings for low income, un- or underinsured individuals.

If you are not able to get your company or organization involved in CASUAL Day, then consider contacting the Cancer Institute to arrange a free educational program about colorectal cancer for your group. Presentations include information packets and a question-and-answer session and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of your attendees. For more information, call (800) 424-6724 or email admin@cancernepa.org.

Don't miss out on time with your loved ones, get screened and make sure your family and friends do as well!

The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute is a nonprofit, community-based agency working to ease the burden of cancer in northeastern Pennsylvania.  Focusing on community and patient services, hospital and practice support services, and survivorship, 100 percent of Cancer Institute resources are invested in this region.  For more information about the Cancer Institute, visit www.cancernepa.org or call (800) 424-6724.