March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but fighting the disease is a year round campaign for Devin James, who was personally impacted by it.
He's now taking his message to the masses by way of the Big Apple. It wasn't the bright lights of Broadway, but the big screen in Times Square where James, a native Memphian, left an indelible mark.
Since learning of his father's diagnosis of colon cancer, James has made it his mission to stamp out the disease. He became an unwilling witness to the devastating effects colon cancer can have on a life.
"My dad had 22-inch arms, my dad has always been like a really buff in shape person, a fitness person," James recalled. "We call him a health nut or whatever. He loves to eat right and work out. He was the embodiment of strong, if you ever were to think about a strong man."
MORE: Fight Colorectal Cancer website
By sharing his father's story, James believes he can save lives.
"Unlike some of the other cancers, this is a preventable disease if you catch it early enough," he said. "If we get the awareness out there the way it should be, 60 percent of the people who are estimated to die could not. They could live and they can go on to be advocates and help us with this fight."
The cause so close to his heart led him to New York City on March 1 with a public service announcement featuring Lady Antebellum, one of Country music's biggest names. It also caused him to change his own life.
"Especially when you're a businessperson you travel, you make all these kind of excuses why you can't eat right and whatever," James said. "So, I had to throw all that out the window because now that my dad was diagnosed, I have a family history, so I'm more likely to be diagnosed later on in life."
According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Colorectal Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Early screening helps prevent the disease…by allowing doctors to find and remove pre-cancerous growths or polyps. The number of people receiving colonoscopies has increased in recent years, but there is still work to be done.
"If we can just get more people to talk about it, that's the point I would just like to drive home," James said. "I think that conversation will spark people's interest and lead them to get screened. We can't prevent it if you don't talk about it."
James' father has been in remission for one year.
It is generally recommended that both men and women receive their first colorectal cancer screening at the age of 50. However if you have risk factors such as a parent being diagnosed with the disease, you may need to be screened much earlier.