In August 2018, Valerie Colprit underwent a routine colonoscopy.
“I went there with an open mind, to check it off my list, and continue with my life,” said the Kailua-Kona resident.
“But when I got out, they said, hey, you got cancer. They say it to you like it’s nothing. But you taking it in. It’s like, devastated. I was devastated but I did it in a silent way.”
The Big Island resident chose not to tell anyone she had stage 2 colon cancer.
“I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. I just wanted to go on, conquer it, like climbing a mountain. You’re gonna do it, take care of your health.”
Scheduling surgery immediately, Colprit put her trust in colorectal surgeon Rebecca Sawai at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center.
“It’s one of the most common types of cancers out there. I think that if we can catch it at an early stage, is highly treatable and potentially curable,” explained Sawai.
Today, Colprit says she is cancer-free, and thriving. But even before the diagnosis, she says she felt fine.
“There’s no pain! You don’t even know. I’m healthy, I feel good, I’m not gonna tell you my age. It’s a silent killer.”
Which is why check-ups are so important.
“A lot of colorectal cancers are asymptomatic. Which is why we rely so heavily on screening to try to pick it up,” said Dr. Sawai.
Colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women in the U.S.
The American Cancer Society once recommended screening for colon cancer at 50. But actor Chadwick Boseman’s tragic death at 43 shows colon and rectal cancer can hit at any age.
“We’re starting to see an alarming trend where younger people are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer,” said Sawai.
According to the Colon Cancer Coalition says 1 in 5 colorectal cancer patients are between 20 and 54 years old.
Another troubling statistic: 1 in 3 people are not up-to-date with cancer screening.
With on-time screening and testing, Dr. Sawai says colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable.
“Not putting off screening is something I really want to encourage a lot of people to do, even at a scary time like this when people are maybe afraid to go see their health care provider during this pandemic,” said Sawai.