Stepping up to help save lives

DALLAS -- Ken Braun, a Dallas resident and frequent community volunteer, is not afraid to venture into difficult-to-talk-about subjects if doing so will help someone.As the executive director of the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program and a fire department chaplain, he is versed in counseling people through some of the most trying times in their lives.Now, he is the face of a campaign in Polk County urging people to go confront a different kind of challenge: a colonoscopy.Yes, it's one of the most dreaded and, ahem, invasive procedures, but it's one that could save your life.Braun, 54, was tested about four years ago on his doctor's recommendation."It's a common joke among men my age, `Oh, you're 50 ...,'" Braun said, noting that is the age people typically need to undergo their first screenings. "You do it because it is good for you."He is thankful he did. Doctors found and removed a polyp, growths that can become cancerous, during his screening.Braun may have to get used to questions about his experience as the spokesman, or "champion," for the local colorectal cancer (CRC) screening campaign, a program of the Oregon Health Authority and Polk County Public Health.His photo will be featured in a series of advertisements -- including one posted on buses running through town -- encouraging timely screenings."It's not that big of a deal and it's definitely worth it," Braun said, noting that doctors put him asleep during the screening.He added the toughest part is the 24- to 48-hour "cleanse" patients have to go through beforehand during which they are not allowed to eat solid food. But considering the consequences of not getting screened, it's a small price to pay.CRC is the second most leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, causing 140,000 new diagnoses and 50,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is easily detectable and treatable if caught early, but only 66 percent of Polk County residents 50 and older are getting tested.Misha Peel, the healthy communities coordinator for Polk's public health department, said Polk is faring better than the state average 59 percent screening rate. Polk's numbers have to increase significantly to meet nationwide screening targets, however."The CDC has a goal to hit 80 percent (screening rate) by 2014," she said.That's why she was happy to have Braun volunteer and is looking for others in the county 50 years or older who have been screened and are willing to talk about reasons for undergoing the procedure.Braun, in his typical fashion, shrugged at the notion of having to speak on the sensitive topic."It's a minor amount of embarrassment for something that could save someone's life," he said.For more information or to volunteer to be a "CRC Champion": Misha Peel, 503-623-8175, ext. 2594.


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