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Monroe County offers free screenings in push to prevent colon cancer

Bill Brewer shares his colon cancer survival story at a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month event in Rochester.
Bill Brewer shares his colon cancer survival story at a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month event in Rochester.

Keeping up with a rigid workout plan was like second nature to Bill Brewer, a human anatomy and exercise physiology professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He calls himself a “fit guy” and often speaks of how he considers his health and fitness top priorities.

His outlook began to change when a routine colon screening detected that he had been living with stage three cancerous tumors.

“I had no symptoms, no bad feelings, no issues, and I thought, ‘Me? I wouldn’t have that!’”

At a news conference hosted by the American Cancer Society Thursday, Brewer shared his journey from patient to now four-year survivor of colon cancer.

The event was part of a major push to save the lives of Monroe County residents and prevent new cancer diagnoses.

Rochester's health and business leaders made a commitment to increase colorectal cancer screening rates in the region. Officials signed a pledge at the Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month event to help raise the total number of screened County residents to 80 percent by 2018.

“We are leading by example and providing screening kits to all Monroe County employees because colorectal cancer is a dangerous disease that could affect anyone at any time in their life,” said Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.

While colorectal cancer incidence rates have dropped 30 percent in the U.S. over the last 10 years among adults 50 and older, it is still the second leading cause of cancer death in the nation, despite being highly preventable, detectable, and treatable.

“[We have] a powerful system in order to fight this thing. A system that if people take advantage of it, they have a tremendous capacity to live beyond their cancer diagnosis,” Brewer said.

Dinolfo announced Monroe County’s new Colorectal Cancer Employee Wellness Initiative in partnership with the Greater Rochester Independent Practice Association, which will provide staff with the free screening kits later this year. 

Sasha-Ann Simons joined the team at WXXI News in 2015 as a Multimedia Reporter/Producer. She tells stories about the innovation economy and technology in upstate New York and also does general assignment reporting. Sasha-Ann is the host of Arts InFocus, WXXI-TV's weekly arts and culture program. She is also a fill-in host and regular contributor to Need To Know.