South Africa: Barry Hilton speaks about the impact of colorectal cancer

It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) – a global initiative held annually in March. This year, to help create awareness for this disease that few talk about, Barry Hilton is collaborating with Be Cancer Aware (BCA).

Lauren Pretorius, CEO C4C

Lauren Pretorius, CEO C4C

At a media brunch held in Johannesburg on Friday 23rd March, Barry Hilton shared the impact of losing two dear loved ones to cancer.  Here he discussed both the emotional and the financial impact of having them diagnosed with the dread disease.

Barry lost his mother to cancer in 2002 and again endured a similar reality when his brother informed him that he had colorectal cancer in 2006, passing away from the disease three years later.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer across all cancer types in men and women worldwide, killing around 700,000 people each year. Another harsh reality is that approximately one million new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed worldwide each year. Likewise, in South Africa, it is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer. Considering the statistics, one would expect colorectal cancer to be as openly and widely talked about at breast cancer or lung cancer yet shockingly few people have heard about colorectal cancer or know much about it. Showing just how important colorectal cancer awareness is.

Barry Hilton welcomes the crowd

Barry Hilton welcomes the crowd

For that reason BCA is very pleased to have the support of South Africa’s favourite cousin, Barry Hilton. Being one of the most well-known comedians in our country, Barry naturally has a huge fan base. When he talks, people take note. Through his support and voice, we hope to get people talking about this “hushed”, potentially life-threatening disease.

Barry Hilton shares his tradegy with the audience

Barry Hilton shares his tradegy with the audience

Barry helped host the awareness brunch at Planet Fitness Wanderers. During the brunch Barry relayed how devastating losing his mum was, but later having to endure the loss of his brother was just heart breaking. “Who expects your younger brother to pass away before you?” asked Barry.

“The Cousin’s” input ensured the awareness brunch retained a humorous tone. That said, the fact that Barry himself has lost loved ones to cancer and relayed the ordeal meant the morning wasn’t all jokes.

The key message that came through Friday morning, both by Barry and Lauren Pretorius, Campaigning for Cancer (C4C) CEO and Be Cancer Aware Representative was the importance of early detection. In true Barry Hilton style, he made light of the unpleasantness of having a colonoscopy, but stressed the importance of being screened regularly. He himself goes for annual screening, which is a practice recommended by health practitioners if 45 years of age or older.

Pretorius, the advocacy groups CEO, was on hand to provide insight into the latest statics and information on cancer, and to provide information about colorectal cancer.

Overall the morning proved informative and touching. Through Barry’s support we were able to highlight the importance of colorectal cancer awareness to ensure early detection and thereby save lives. We hope you can help us spread this message further!

Planet Fitness helps create awareness

BCA and Planet Fitness are collaborating for the month of March. Tight thighs and tush classes are being held in flagship gyms around the country in aid of CCAM. These are currently being promoted within the Planet Fitness group to encourage members to attend classes and support the cause while staying fit and healthy.

By understanding normal digestive function and being aware of the signs of colorectal cancer, physical gut feelings can become intuitive and should not be ignored. With this in mind, the theme for this year’s CCAM is “Ignoring a gut feeling?”

Early detection and treatment

The risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer begins at age 40 and increases after the age of 50 – both men and women should be screened. Risk factors revolve around poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, family history of colorectal cancer, and age.

“If diagnosed and treated early, colorectal cancer is treatable and in many cases curable,” says Cape Town-based Oncologist, Dr Garth Davids.

Dr Davids explains that colorectal cancer can occur anywhere in the colon or rectum.  “The cancer develops when the normal process of renewal among the cells lining the bowel is interrupted. A tumour may form, which, if detected at an early stage, can be removed, and patients have a chance of a full recovery and quality of life. If the cancer has reached a more advanced stage, other treatment options such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be considered. Chemotherapy with targeted therapy may be an option for some patients,” he says.

BCA encourages people to reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer through regular screenings and examinations from the age of 40. Regular screenings are the only way to detect and prevent colorectal cancer, and early detection is vital for a favourable prognosis.

For more information, or to show your support for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, visit the Be Cancer Aware Facebook group.