News of actor Chadwick Boseman’s death shocked many people over the weekend. His private fight with colon cancer lasted four years, and he was just 43 years old when he died. The South Carolina native had a career that allowed him to portray prominent figures throughout history and made him was an icon not only within the black community but internationally.
Medical experts say we could see many more cases of colon cancer in people even younger than Boseman.
Dr. Russ Farmer at UofL Health explains if you were born after the year 1990 your risk of developing colon and rectal cancer is roughly six times what it would be for your parents.
“That is not necessarily we believe due to any specific genetic predisposition. This what we call a sporadic disease meaning it happens because of factors we can’t identify,” said Farmer.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloody stool, and changes in bowel habits. Some good news Dr. Farmer shared is that Kentucky has risen to be among the top ten to fifteen percent for screening rates in the country. He said, ”Testing for colon and rectal cancer does not have to take the traditionally awkward and uncomfortable form of a colonoscopy anymore.”
Several tests can be performed in the office or even at home and are covered by insurance. Patients also need to be aware of any significant changes so they can ask their doctors for colon and rectal testing if needed.
Dr. Farmer says the disease is more prevalent in African Americans, who also face additional healthcare challenges.
”It really is a combination of things and unfortunately not one of those things that is going to be solved by increasing the screening rate. We can screen more African Americans for colon and rectal cancer, but we also have to find a better system for providing traditionally disenfranchised patients the healthcare they so desperately need.”
But the most important message doctors want to pass along to patients is to be an advocate for your health and not to shy away from tough conversations.
”We can only hope that Chadwick Boseman and his death can be a further galvanizing moment behind the treatment of this disease, which can be horrible and insidious, and can shed light on the disparities for African Americans and everybody else,” Dr. Farmer said.