Press Center

Olympus Colorectal Cancer Awareness Backgrounder

Six years ago, March was officially declared National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. But the seeds for this annual, month-long educational campaign were planted back in September 1998. That was when the first national colorectal cancer education campaign was launched at the White House with the support of then First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The 1998 campaign was supported in thousands of communities across the country, often in collaboration with national and local partners. Olympus, a long-time proponent of colorectal cancer education, was present at this groundbreaking event and has been actively involved ever since.

Having pioneered the development of endoscopic technology that helps physicians identify and remove polyps before they turn deadly, Olympus manufactures nearly 70 percent of the medical equipment used worldwide in colorectal cancer screening and treatment procedures such as colonoscopy.

Over the years, Olympus has joined with numerous public, private and voluntary colorectal cancer organizations around the nation, under the umbrella of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), in gaining acceptance for endoscopic screening for colorectal cancer and contribuinduting to early diagnosis and treatment. The combined efforts of this national coalition have ultimately saved tens of thousands of lives.

The Roundtable consists of over 50 member organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS), American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation (CRPF), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Olympus, Fashion Week, and the EIF's NCCRA
While many people know Olympus as a design and style leader in digital cameras, some are surprised to learn that Olympus is also a leader in colon cancer screening. As the 2004 and 2005 title sponsor of Olympus Fashion Week, which takes place bi-annually in early February and early September under the tents in New York City's Bryant Park, Olympus joined forces with the fashion community and the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (EIF's NCCRA) to help make it more fashionable to talk about and promote colorectal cancer awareness.

The relationship between Olympus, EIF's NCCRA, and the fashion community is an integral one, as the fashion industry's advocacy on important public health issues historically has had a huge influence. The industry has proven it can speak to women in particular, who are an important group to educate about colon cancer. Today, 70 percent of women who are of the recommended age for breast cancer screening now receive annual mammograms, while less than 30 percent of women of recommended age get screened for colon cancer.

Through this partnership, Olympus will contribute to the EIF's NCCRA awareness efforts and support its research and patient care initiatives, helping to keep the important issue of colorectal cancer awareness in the spotlight year-round, and well into the foreseeable future. Over the past few years, Olympus has seen the impact Katie Couric and the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance have had. There has been a 20 percent increase in colonoscopies that has come to be known as the 'Couric Effect.' This remarkable achievement has saved countless lives and it is critical that the efforts are continued and broadened.

On February 4, 2005, Couric and supermodel Heidi Klum unveiled a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) that is designed to raise awareness about colorectal cancer. The PSA, which is the latest element of the "Be Seen, Be Screened" campaign launched by Olympus and the NCCRA in September 2004 at Olympus Fashion Week, features Klum asking, "Help us make it fashionable to talk about colon cancer." Several national publications have joined in this awareness effort by donating space to run the PSA, among them PEOPLE Magazine, ELLE, Harper's Bazaar, In Style and Sports Illustrated, and a number of designers are displaying the PSA in their stores and showrooms during the month of March.

During September 2004's Olympus Fashion Week, Olympus recruited more than 30 extraordinary fashion designers --- including Kenneth Cole, Betsey Johnson and Nicole Miller ---- to create one-of-a-kind camera accessories for a weeklong E-bay auction. Actress Nia Vardalos and supermodel Iman joined Katie Couric at a press conference where the items were displayed, generating significant media coverage of the initiative. People from all over the country bid on the items, and the funds raised benefited the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance.

Olympus also sponsored famed nightlife and fashion photographer Patrick McMullan's new photo book, In Tents, a photography retrospective of the last decade of New York Fashion Weeks; a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book also benefits the NCCRA.

The first Fashion Week for which Olympus served as title sponsor began on February 11, 2004. On that day, Olympus Vice President of Marketing, Martin Lee appeared on NBC's "Today" show with a fashion industry representative and described how the company would get the industry engaged in educating women about colon cancer and the importance of early detection in combating it. Lee also presented Couric, the show's co-anchor, with the company's $500,000 donation to the NCCRA, used to support awareness programs and to fund research being done by nine top scientists around the country.

For more information about the work of the NCCRA, visit www.nccra.org

Olympus and the Buddy Bracelet Campaign
The Buddy Bracelet campaign, which is sponsored by the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation, encourages men and women to get screened for colorectal cancer. Blue rubber wristband bracelets featuring the message: "Colorectal Cancer: Preventable. Treatable. Beatable!" are worn as a reminder to get screened for colorectal cancer. When a person gets screened, they pass the Buddy Bracelet on to someone else as a reminder for them to get screened, and so on, creating a chain reaction that is growing and already reaching thousands. To show support for the Buddy Bracelet and help increase awareness amongst its own employees, Olympus will be providing each of its nearly 2,000 employees across the country with a Buddy Bracelet. To order Buddy Bracelets, visit the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation at www.preventcancer.org

Olympus and the Blue Star Symbol For CRC Awareness
On March 1, 2004, the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable unveiled the blue star symbol that now serves as an instantly recognizable, year-round reminder for the battle against colon cancer. The symbol, which consists of a blue ribbon merged with a blue star assuming a human shape, represents the eternal memory of those people whose lives have already been lost to the disease and the shining hope for a future free of colon cancer. Representatives from Olympus, a member group of the Roundtable, served on the committee responsible for developing the symbol. For a second year in a row throughout the month of March, the blue star will be prominently displayed on a large banner outside the Olympus America corporate headquarters in Melville, NY (Long Island). In 2004, to commemorate the unveiling of the blue star symbol, each Olympus employee across the country received a blue star lapel pin to wear to help promote colorectal cancer awareness. The symbol is also featured on Roundtable's member websites (including Olympus') around the country and on t-shirts, hats, brochures, and in window displays and events across North America. To order a blue star pin, contact the American Cancer Society (ACS) at 866-227-7914 or the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) at 877-422-2030 or e-mail the CCA at info@ccalliance.org

Olympus and the National Cancer Institute Study
In September 2003, Olympus became part of a National Cancer Institute funded study entitled, "A Model Program for Increasing Use of Screening Colonoscopy Among Minority Women and Men." The study, which utilizes Olympus colonoscopes to perform screenings, is a cooperative effort of three institutions: North General Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, all located in New York City, NY.

Olympus and the Colossal Colon
Olympus continues to support the Colossal Colon, the brainchild of 29-year-old colorectal cancer survivor, Molly McMaster. Created as a way to educate people about colorectal cancer in a unique and interesting way, the Colossal Colon is a 40-foot long, 4-foot tall crawl-through replica of the human colon, which shows examples of healthy colon tissue, several colon diseases, and various stages of colon cancer. The Colossal Colon was built in 2002, with funding from several organizations including Olympus, and is dedicated to the memory of McMaster's friend, Amanda Sherwood Roberts, who died of colon cancer at age 27.

In 2003, the Colossal Colon joined the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation on the Colossal Tour, a 9-month, 20-city national tour to teach about prevention, education and treatment options for colorectal cancer. Olympus, the exclusive medical device sponsor of the tour, donated a colonoscope, sigmoidoscope, and video equipment to help allay the public's fears about colorectal cancer screening. For the final tour stop in Harlem, NY, Olympus also provided Olympus digital cameras, a TruePrint Kiosk station and a photographer so that visitors who crawled through the Colossal Colon would have a memento of their learning experience.

In 2004, the Colossal Colon became available for use by colorectal advocacy and awareness groups across the country and internationally. To date, it has been used in malls, medical centers, state fairs, Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, and even has been used in a radio contest.

If your organization is interested in having the Colossal Colon appear at a colorectal cancer awareness event in 2005 and beyond, contact Molly McMaster for more information. Keep an eye out for the latest ideas from McMaster and her non-profit organization, The Colon Club, at www.colonclub.com

Olympus and University of Southern California-Norris Cancer Center/Anatomical Travelogue Colon Cancer Education Initiative
In February 2003, Olympus provided data and advice about colonoscopy procedures and how colonoscopes work to the award-winning, scientific visualization company Anatomical Travelogue. USC/Norris Cancer Center in Los Angeles, CA partnered with Anatomical Travelogue for the creation of a colon cancer public education initiative. With the scientific guidance of USC/Norris leading doctors Robert W. Beart, Jr. and Heinz-Josef Lenz, and the input of Olympus, Anatomical Travelogue created, for the first time ever, videos with 3D time-elapsed footage of the growth of a polyp over 15 years. The purpose of the footage, which also features a colonoscope traveling through the sigmoid, descending, transverse and ascending sections of the colon, is to help educate the general public on the importance of colorectal cancer screening. The footage first aired on NBC's "Today" show on Monday, March 17, 2003.

Olympus employees and the local community
For several years during the month of March, Olympus has sponsored colorectal cancer education events so employees could share what they learned with family and friends who may be at risk. This year, Olympus is again promoting National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to its employees across the nation with prominent guest speakers, a colorectal cancer awareness contest, Buddy Bracelets, "colon-healthy" lunch menus, messages on employee paychecks and on the screens of its employee digital photo print kiosks. On March 14th, 2005, Dr. Jerry Waye, one of the most famous gastroenterologists in the world, and his distinguished and accomplished colleague, Dr. Sharmila Ananda both from Mt. Sinai Medical Center, NY, will visit Olympus U.S. corporate headquarters to speak to Olympus employees.

Olympus also provides year-round information about colorectal cancer awareness on its website, www.olympusamerica.com/crcawareness

The facts about colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. It affects both men and women, and risk increases with age. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 145,290 new cases and 56,290 deaths from colorectal cancer in 2005. With the population of aging baby boomers on the rise, the incidence of colorectal cancer is also expected to increase. In 2003, President George Bush announced his administration's goal to reduce the rate of colorectal cancer deaths by 34 percent by the year 2010.

More than one-third of colorectal cancer deaths could be avoided if people over the age of 50 had regular screening tests, but because patients are generally uncomfortable talking about colorectal cancer with their doctors, they often remain silent about possible symptoms such as blood in the stool and changes in bowel habits.

Most cases begin as benign, pre-cancerous polyps (grapelike growths on the lining of the colon). Removing the polyps early can prevent the cancer. Screenings are not painful, and are often covered by Medicare and by many other health insurers.

According to the American Cancer Society, if the cancer is detected early and appropriately treated, the five-year survival rate is approximately 90 percent. It has been estimated that widespread screening for colorectal cancer could save more than 20,000 lives each year.

About Olympus
Olympus is a precision technology leader, designing and delivering innovative solutions in healthcare and consumer electronics worldwide.

Olympus works collaboratively with its customers and its parent company, Tokyo-based Olympus Corporation, to leverage R&D investment in precision technology and manufacturing processes across diverse business lines. These include:

  • Gastrointestinal endoscopes, accessories, and minimally invasive surgical products;
  • Advanced clinical and research microscopes;
  • Lab automation systems, chemistry-immuno and blood bank analyzers and reagents;
  • Digital and film cameras, and digital voice recorders.
In the U.S. and Canada, Olympus serves healthcare, scientific and commercial laboratory markets with integrated product solutions and financial, educational and consulting services that help customers efficiently, reliably, safely, and easily achieve superior results. Olympus is the leader in gastrointestinal endoscopy and clinical and educational microscopes. The company's market-leading consumer electronics business spans North and South America.
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