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The Importance of Colon Cancer Screening

June 24, 2022, 3:01 PM HST
* Updated June 24, 3:16 PM
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George Stewart and wife Jeannie (Submitted photo)

Although George Stewart dealt with many unknowns during his cancer journey, knowing that he had colon cancer was critical. Early detection saved his life. 

In 2016, Stewart began experiencing abdominal pain and growling sounds in his abdomen. The symptoms worsened over the next several months. Eventually, Steward had two procedures, an endoscopy and colonoscopy, which identified a large polyp behind the colon. The polyp was biopsied and confirmed as cancerous.

After his diagnosis, Stewart and his wife, Jeannie, met with specialists and researched information online. The amount of information was overwhelming, yet life-altering decisions needed to be made quickly.

“It would have been very helpful to have a credible, unbiased, one-stop resource in person or online to give guidance 24/7 on colon cancer,” said Stewart. “Having a trained professional to talk to regarding cancer and other issues caused by the cancer diagnosis would have been helpful. Dealing with the unknown, causes a lot of anxiety and fear.”

Treating Stewart’s cancer was similarly difficult. He had three major surgeries within four months, endured rounds of chemotherapy, and dealt with complications including infection, blood clots and severe weight loss. However, according to Stewart, “the most difficult part was dealing with the unknown and what might happen next. I’ve always been an upbeat person, so keeping a positive frame of mind and being grateful in all things helped a whole lot.”

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More than five years later, Stewart is a proud colon cancer survivor. He and Jeannie channel their positive energy into the nonprofit organization, Compassion for Cancer Caregivers, which offers free support for people with cancer and their caregivers. One of the classes, titled “The Wall of Silence,” guides cancer patients in telling others about their diagnosis.

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“It’s understandable that it may be difficult to tell others you have cancer, but the journey is more difficult when you do it alone in silence,” said Stewart. “Sharing my cancer story during my journey was like a pressure relief valve. It made the load lighter for me.”

Colon cancer can often go undetected. That is why getting screened is so important. The Department of Health’s Get Screened Hawai‘i campaign promotes colon cancer screening for everyone 45 to 75 years old. Talk to a healthcare provider today, and visit GetScreened.hawaii.gov for more information.

 

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