An Atlantic Highlands business owner continues chemotherapy treatments after learning he had colon-rectal cancer just about a year ago this month. During Colon Cancer Awareness Month he stresses the importance of getting tested to rule anything out.

Walt Hughes thought he was just having some bad abdominal pain for a number of weeks but after his wife urged him to consult a doctor he underwent a colonoscopy.

The 66-year old owner of United Seacoast says that's where doctors found a tumor the size of a grapefruit.

"It didn't grow that big in six-weeks, it had been kicking around in there probably for a while," said Hughes. "No doctor could really put their finger on it but if I were to guess I would I say...I was probably coping with it for about six or eight months and never knew it."

It caught him by surprise, he adds, because no draining physical symptoms or fatigue really arose before his diagnoses.

He was encouraged by his doctor to get a colonoscopy six-years ago but had shied away in fear because he felt the procedure would be uncomfortable.

"If I had done it when he had told me to do it, I'm sure we wouldn't be having this discussion," said Hughes. "He probably would have found some benign polyps that could have been serviced at that point in time and I wouldn't be faced with this."

Which is why he encourages everyone to get the procedure, especially men as they turn 60-years old.

"It's a's no big deal," said Hughes. "You're asleep when it happens and when you wake up you don't even know what's been going on."

He says the discomfort is only minor after waking up, and now that he's in recovery he has a new outlook on life.

"Everyday is a gift," said Hughes. "Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you enjoy everyday because you never know when your numbers going to be up."

Once the diagnosis was determined, Hughes's doctors at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch introduced him to the laproscopic surgical technique that would clear away the deadly tumors robotically, with a couple of small incisions for entry points. It is a marked advance from the sort of full-torso openings that were once needed, especially, as in his case, where cancer has settled into several organs.

“By utilizing minimizing laparoscopic surgical techniques to treat Mr. Hughes, we were able to remove the tumor and cancer permeated areas through small incisions to the abdomen area,” said Michael Arvanitis, MD, FACS, section chief of colon and rectal surgery at Monmouth Medical Center.

“The surgery resulted in a quick recovery and allowed for chemotherapy treatment to begin sooner, getting Mr. Hughes back to his normal activities. Laparoscopic surgery results in fewer complications and a shorter hospital stay, more effectively expediting how we treat colorectal cancer patients.”

Over the course of his battle with cancer he says his ability to stay mentally tough went a long way in allowing him to pull through and survive, and encourages other patients to stay strong and never give up hope.

"There's some folks, who when they get that diagnoses they raise the white flag and surrender," said Hughes. "It's still too early for me to surrender."

RWJBarnabas Health, parent of the statewide chain that includes Monmouth Medical Center, supports the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable's "80% by 2018" initiative, which aims to engage 80 percent of American adults, age 50 and older, in regularly-scheduled colorectal screenings by 2018.

Monmouth Medical Center also offers comprehensive screenings and advanced procedures pertaining to a variety of colorectal conditions. To find out more, enter this link or call 732-923-6070.

You can learn more about colorectal cancer is coming up on March 28 at Community Medical Center where their holding the '13th Annual Colorectal Cancer Awareness Fair' in the outpatient lobby from 3:30-5:30 pm.

Following the presentation head on down to their auditorium for the 'colorectal cancer awareness symposium' at 5:30 pm which will provide attendees with information on the cancer including treatment options, how to prevent it and most importantly they'll be screening for early detection.

After that dinner, but officials say seating is limited so make the phone call sooner rather than later at1-888-724-7123.

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