HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, spreading awareness about a disease that's a leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women throughout the U.S.
For years, one Hampton Roads doctor has shined a light on this issue.
“It's very special being a doctor,” Dr. Bruce Waldholtz told News 3.
Waldholtz has practiced more than 30 years as a gastroenterologist in Hampton Roads.
“There's nothing more distressing than to be doing a colonoscopy, the lights are down, you hear the monitor going, and you see a mass within the colon, and you know that that patient's life has been changed forever,” he said.
“You're impacting the life and families of people that you'll never meet, and that is really the neatest thing,” Waldholtz said.
He said, this year, the pandemic has impacted screenings.
“There were screenings that didn't happen,” Waldholtz said.
According to American Cancer Society (ACS) officials, Virginia ranks 26 out of 50 in colon cancer screening. In 2018, the organization changed their recommendation for screenings to people ages 45 and older.
“Prevention is so very important,” Waldholtz said. “Teach people to teach other people, because that's how we're really going to make a big difference.”
Chesapeake Police Chief Kelvin Wright has been a patient of Dr. Waldholtz for about 15 years.
“He is a very fine gentleman and a very capable, competent, exceptional physician,” Wright told News 3.
This month, the two spearheaded a campaign involving police chiefs across the Seven Cities speaking up about the disease.
“This was right about the same time of Chadwick Boseman's death,” Wright said. “I know of some people personally who've had the struggle of colorectal cancer as well.”
“The hope that we can get our first responders, our police officers, to not just talk about community health wearing seat belts, but community health in a way that we normally wouldn't think them talking about colons,” Waldholtz added.
And, after years of giving, ACS is giving back to Dr. Waldholtz with the American Cancer Society National Volunteer Leadership Award.
“It's essentially our national volunteer of the year,” Brant Woodward, Executive VP for the Southeast Region of the American Cancer Society said.
“He is truly a tireless warrior in the fight against cancer,” Woodward added. “Whether it is assembling the seven police chiefs to get the word out about colorectal screening, to walking the halls of the U.S. Congress and the Virginia State House to pass legislation, to ensure that everybody has access to quality care, he is an example of what a great volunteer is and the difference that a great volunteer can make."
They hope more volunteers will sign up to the task and share Dr. Waldholtz's mission.
“Let's work together to save lives,” Waldholtz said.