The world was shocked and heartbroken by the death of Chadwick Boseman, but could his tragic passing help save lives?
The Doctors and gastroenterologist Dr. Nicole Gordon discuss how the actor's death -- following a 4-year battle with colon cancer -- may help inspire more people to get screened earlier for colorectal cancers. Physician Dr. Ian Smith shares that colorectal cancers are the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and affect more 100,000 people annually. He also notes these types of cancers disproportionately affect people of color, and many doctors are calling for earlier screening for African Americans, something referred to as "The Boseman Effect."
Dr. Gordon says colon cancer rates are rising among certain groups and warns African Americans are at higher risk. While the reason African Americans are at higher risk for developing this type of cancer is unknown, Dr. Gordon notes their risk level is 20 percent higher and are being diagnosed earlier in life and at a later stage of the disease.
So when should someone get a colonoscopy?
- At age 40: if a parent or sibling has a history of colon cancer or 10 years under the age when that family member was diagnosed.
- At age 45: According to the American Cancer Society, everyone should screened be for colorectal cancer at this age.
Some risk factors for colon cancer include unhealthy living habits like obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle, and a high-fat and low-fiber diet. Dr. Gordon explains symptoms of this type of cancer can include rectal bleeding, anemia, weight loss, a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, and extreme fatigue. Also, the number one symptom is … no symptoms at all.
The gastroenterologist stresses it is possible to have colon cancer without any symptoms and says if you are presenting symptoms it usually means the patient is at a later stage of the disease. As for the procedure, she says a patient is not awake for it, there are multiple options on how to prep for the procedure, and that most people can get back to their normal routine -- minus some grogginess the day of the procedure -- the next day.