Chadwick Boseman, a rising star in Hollywood who portrayed Jackie Robinson and James Brown before his breakout performance in “Black Panther,” died August 28 after a four-year battle with colon cancer, shining a light on an illness that kills tens of thousands in the United States every year but is rarely talked about.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 141,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were reported in 2017, the most recent year of available data, and more than 52,000 people died of the illness.
Medical experts say it’s largely less known than, say, breast cancer or prostate cancer because there is not a national organization widely advocating for early checkups and treatment.
“Breast cancer gets more publicity because there’s been a strong movement with the Susan G. Komen Foundation even though the death rate for colon cancer exceeds that of breast cancer,” Dr. Gerald Wilson, the chairman of the South Carolina Cancer Alliance, told ABC News. Boseman was a native of that state, which is among a handful in the South where colon cancer rates are highest. “The tragedy about this it is a very preventable disease with screening programs.”
Early detection is key, medical professionals agree. The recommended age to get screened was lowered from 50 to 45 in 2018 by the American Cancer Society. Although typical symptoms are not unique to colon cancer, they include:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days.
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Dark stools or blood in the stool.
- Cramping or abdominal pain.
- Weakness and fatigue.
- Unintended weight loss.
Don’t wait for a scheduled screening if you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor; the sooner treatment is administered, the better. The Department of Consumer Affairs licenses hundreds of thousands of medical professionals statewide who can be consulted on any of these or other health issues. To verify a professional’s license, visit http://search.dca.ca.gov.