Governor Paul LePage Declares March Colon Cancer Awareness Month

March 3, 2011

Augusta, Maine – March 3, 2011 - Maine Governor Paul LePage officially Turned Maine Blue this morning when he signed a proclamation designating March as Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of new cancer cases and deaths for both men and women in Maine. In 2010, nearly 800 Mainers were diagnosed with colon cancer and 270 died from the disease. Many of those deaths may have been prevented had the victims been screened earlier. “My doctor tells me to get regular screenings, and I listen,” said Maine Governor Paul LePage. “Whether you do it for yourself or your family, you need to get screened if you are over 50 or have a family history of colon cancer.”

Turning Maine Blue is an initiative of the Maine Colorectal Cancer Control Program, a program of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services. The goal is to increase awareness of colon cancer and the importance of early detection and prevention of this disease. As part of this initiative, communities and organizations across Maine have been enlisted to illuminate their buildings blue throughout March, and the public is encouraged to wear blue articles of clothing on Friday, March 4th, which is nationally designated as Dress in Blue Day. Blue is the official color of colon cancer awareness.

Governor LePage was joined at the proclamation signing by Dr. Stephen Sears, Acting Director for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and State Epidemiologist; Nona Wills, a colon cancer survivor from New Gloucester who is one of six Mainers featured in the Maine Colorectal Cancer Control Program’s posters and bookmarks (featured in Hannaford store pharmacies across the state in March); and Suzanne Smith, daughter of State Representative Everett McLeod who passed away in December 2010 after a battle with colon cancer.

Dr. Sears encouraged Maine residents to take advantage of the Maine Colorectal Cancer Control Program’s resources by calling their hotline (1-877-320-6800), or visiting the program’s website (http://www.colonscreenme.org/) to learn more about colon cancer screening and prevention.

“Colon cancer is most treatable when found in the earliest stages. Screening is often the only way to detect precancerous polyps or early stage cancers as symptoms many times do not present until the disease has progressed,” said Dr. Sears. “If a person is over 50, or has a family history of colon cancer, they should talk to their healthcare provider about getting screened.”

Among other events being hosted by communities and organizations statewide, the Maine Colorectal Cancer Control Program has the following Turning Maine Blue events planned for March:

• Friday, March 4th is designated as Dress in Blue Day. Mainers are encouraged to wear a blue article of clothing for colon cancer awareness on this day. • On Monday, March 7th the City of Portland will partner with the Maine Colorectal Cancer Control Program to illuminate City Hall blue.

The Maine Colorectal Cancer Control Program is a statewide program that aims to provide no-cost colon cancer screening services for low-income, average-risk Mainers, aged 50 and older, who are underinsured or uninsured. In addition, the Program aims to increase awareness and understanding among all Mainers, regardless of age, income and insurance status, regarding the importance and effectiveness of screening for colon cancer.

In addition to the Governor’s proclamation, all members of the Maine House and Senate signed a Joint Resolution acknowledging Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

For more information about the Maine Colorectal Cancer Control Program or Turning Maine Blue, please contact Andrea Fletcher at 207-287-4321 or andrea.fletcher@maine.gov.