West Memphis officials raise awareness about colon cancer, after disease claims life of beloved fire chief

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. – After dealing with tragedy in 2020, the city of West Memphis is partnering with an industry leader to offer what they call landmark medical services.

The city of West Memphis and its fire department were devastated when they lost fire chief Dennis Brewer to colon cancer. They hope with new medical services, lives could be saved in the future.

The loss of fire Chief Dennis Brewer still resonates across West Memphis. A new fire station stands in town, named in his honor. And on Tuesday, West Memphis leaders are delivering a message in his memory.

“All of us are family here, and your family at home: We don’t want to lose you, and your family at home doesn’t want to lose you,” said DeWayne Rose, of West Memphis Emergency Management. “Go get tested. Because we’re counting on you, and your family is counting on you. We want you here with us.”

Chief Brewer was just 55 years old when colon cancer took his life last year.

Inspired to help their community avoid another tragedy, the city of West Memphis has followed guidance from the American College of Gastroenterology. They’ll lower the age for preventative colorectal cancer screening from 50 years old to 45.

“What’s the purpose of screening? To pick up the cancer at an earlier stage. That’s very important,” said Dr. Shakeb Hashmi, the West Memphis Medical Director.

The city will also offer what they’re calling the first-ever at-home colon cancer screening kits which will be free for first responders.

If the lowered age and in-home offering can save even one family from the sadness that Chief Brewer’s family and friends have felt it will be a worthy investment.

“I love the firemen! Make sure that you all get your tests and get your family checked. This stuff is no joke. Because it is the silent killer,” said  Dorothy Brewer, the wife of the late fire chief.

Experts say the in-home kits will help detect the disease early which allows for life-saving treatment.

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