PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ If it wasn’t for a routine colonoscopy two years ago, Thom Mitchell would have never found out he had a cancerous polyp.

“I had surgery, had it removed,” he recalled. “I’ve had family members die of cancer. I’ve had neighbors die of cancer. What I had was so far removed from what cancer is, and yet it was cancer, it was just caught so early, and I’m fine.”

He was one of many survivors and physicians who gathered outside East Providence City Hall Thursday evening to shine a light, both literally and figuratively, on just how important the routine procedure can be.

Harlan Rich, medical director of the Brown Medicine Endoscopy Center, said colon cancer kills roughly 50,000 people annually.

“We need to get people aware that they should seek assistance and support when they’re having symptoms and certainly to get screened when they are asymptomatic so that we can detect cancer early,” Rich said.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. The State House was lit up in blue Thursday to hopefully improve that statistic.

“It’s treatable, it’s potentially curable and it’s potentially preventable,” he said.

Rich said there’s been a 90% reduction in the number of colon cancer screenings since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Mitchell said he hopes his personal story will make a difference in the lives of people who are unsure whether to get a colonoscopy.

“Get it done, that’s all I can say,” he said. “It’s worth it, and do it for those you love.”