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Philadelphia churches raise awareness for colon cancer screenings while competing in Spirit Challenge

Philadelphia churches raising awareness for colon cancer screening with Spirit Challenge
Philadelphia churches raising awareness for colon cancer screening with Spirit Challenge 02:33

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and one nonprofit is working to make sure the screening process is accessible to as many people as possible in the Philadelphia region.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is hosting a Spirit Challenge as part of its 45+ Reasons campaign, which has the goal of getting 5,000 Black Philadelphians screened for colorectal cancer.

During the Spirit Challenge, the Alliance hopes to leverage the power of local churches to raise awareness for the potentially life-saving screenings.

"It's bringing these spiritual communities together because they tend to be the voice of the community," Kim McNeil with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance said. "Black individuals especially sometimes have a mistrust with the health care community. So if they are going to their church, they trust their spiritual guide that's there. They trust the other community members that are there."

Screening for colorectal cancer is especially important for communities of color. Black Americans are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 35% more likely to die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Early detection through screening is key in the fight.

"Everyone over the age of 45 is recommended to have this done," said Dr. Shivan Mehta, associate chief innovation officer at Penn Medicine. "Colon cancer is a success story if we're able to find it in the early stages, meaning it has not spread to other parts of the body. We can cure the disease over 90% of the time."

The goal for churches that are competing in the Spirit Challenge is to sign up the most people to get screened. The church that encourages the most people to successfully finish the screening process wins $3,000.

One of the churches participating is Freedom Christian Bible Fellowship in Overbrook. The mission is simple.

"We're all about empowerment," said Rashiid Coleman, the church's senior pastor. "We want people to get involved. Take the reins in their own life. I'm not always as proactive as I could be when it comes to taking care of myself, so this has contributed to me taking a closer look at my own well-being. I do believe in living what I talk about."

Dr. Mehta said there are options when it comes to screening.

"The most sensitive test is the colonoscopy," he said. "That's the one we often recommend. But there's other stool testing out there as well, and from our perspective, the most important test is the one that gets done."

The Alliance is holding other screening events throughout Philly as well, not just at religious organizations. During those events, a team with the Alliance will help people fill out a quiz, and then assist with the next step of setting up a screening.


Its next outreach event is March 18 at the Philadelphia 76ers game.

If you can't make it to any in-person screening event, you can take a quiz and start the process online.

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