For Herman Anderson, it’s all about getting people to get screened for cancer. When the Marietta, Ga., resident was diagnosed with stage 2 colorectal cancer in 2006, he was 62 years old and had never been screened. He knows better now.
“I went to see my primary care physician because I was having some discomfort,” he said. “Thank goodness she required that I get a colonoscopy, and that’s how we found it.”
Screening can be a lifesaver for people like Anderson. People in the early stages of colorectal cancer often have few to no symptoms; screening is the only way that doctors can spot cancer or polyps that can become cancerous.
Health officials recommend that all adults get regular colorectal screenings once they turn 50. But like Anderson, many adults just don’t get it done. According to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), one in three Georgians between ages 50 to 75 has never been screened for colorectal cancer.
Since his diagnosis, Anderson has spent much of his time in various survivor networking groups sharing his story and working with fundraising groups to increase access to screenings for those who may not be able to have them otherwise.
“Just a few months after my treatment ended, I joined a colon cancer survivor network. I initially wanted to just go to the meetings and sit and listen, to find comfort in other survivors’ journeys,” Anderson said. “But now I know I need to share my story and do all I can to make people aware of how cancer can be prevented, or at least beaten.”
Anderson said he’s driven to promote screenings because he feels lucky. Not only did screening save him from dying of cancer, but it also helped warn his doctors of another health problem. When seeing a heart specialist to get ready for the surgery to treat his colorectal cancer, Anderson learned that he had three blocked arteries.
“When you are told you have cancer, obviously, that’s already a blow, so I had to condition myself mentally to deal with it. But when they told me about the blockage, it made my situation seem impossible to deal with.”
Fortunately, three stents cleared Anderson’s arteries enough to be ready for surgery. With that, and treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, he was on the road to recovery.
“Then I had to go on a diet,” he joked. Anderson said he’s thankful to be able to do that.