Interview with Kathy Ireland: The Power & Wisdom of Prevention

Supermodel Kathy Ireland is on a mission to encourage colon cancer screening.

Kathy Ireland is a Renaissance woman. The former supermodel of the 1980s and 1990s, perhaps best known for making the Sports Illustrated cover 13 consecutive issues, including the 25th anniversary issue, is also a highly successful businesswoman. In 1993, she launched kathy ireland Worldwide (kiWW) a lifestyle brand described by Forbes as “a two-billion dollar design empire.” She has also been named by UCLA as one of the Top 10 Women’s Health Advocates and has been celebrated for her philanthropic activism and funding, working vigorously for the care and treatment of Downes disease, ADL, and HIV/AIDS in addition to her service as Chair Person for the March of Dimes. Kathy really talked to My Hometown Health to about her work as an advocate to help educate people about colon cancer screening.

What motivated you to become an advocate for colon cancer screening?
Everyone wants to stay healthy for their family and part of a healthy lifestyle, if you are 50 or over, needs to include getting screened for colon cancer. That’s because colon cancer kills approximately 50,000 people each year, but many of those deaths could be prevented with earlier detection. Colonoscopy screening for colon (or colorectal) cancer is particularly valuable because it allows the doctor to find polyps – growths in the colon or rectum that may become cancer – and remove them before the polyps have the opportunity to turn into cancer. As a wife, mother of three and business owner, I know how hectic life can get, but I took time out of my busy schedule to get screened for colon cancer, and I want other people to do the same.

Could you talk briefly about your partnership with the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy?
I was privileged to make a unique and personal Public Service Announcement for the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. It was a real opportunity to communicate the importance of family and why getting screened for this largely preventable disease is essential for staying healthy, starting at age 50.

What do people need to understand about colon cancer?
Colon cancer is considered a silent killer because often there are no symptoms until it is often too late to treat. Age is the single most important risk factor for the disease, so even people who lead a healthy lifestyle can still develop polyps
and cancer.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that colon cancer screening rates remain too low. In fact, less than 60 percent of the people who should be screened for colon cancer have done so. That’s just not acceptable when you consider the fact that this one screening could save your life. For example, the five-year survival rate for colon cancer at stage 1, when it’s detected early, is 87 percent. But the five-year survival rate for Stage 4, when the disease has spread to other parts of the body, is only 12 percent. That’s the reason early detection by having a colonoscopy is so important.

Any final thoughts?
encourage everyone to visit the ASGE’s colon cancer awareness website at www.screen4coloncancer.org. The site offers a wealth of information, including facts about colon cancer and screening options, what to expect during a colonoscopy, answers to frequently asked questions, links to patient support and advocacy groups, informational videos, and how to find a qualified gastrointestinal endoscopist to perform a colonoscopy. All men and women age 50 or over should talk to their doctor about the colon cancer screening method that is best for them. It’s the right thing to do to make sure colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable!