Chadwick Boseman’s Contribution to Rising Awareness Of Colon Cancer

man wearing maroon V-neck t-shirt in forest

Chadwick Boseman’s Contribution to Rising Awareness Of Colon Cancer

In August 2020, the world was deeply saddened by the loss of beloved actor Chadwick Boseman, who succumbed to complications arising from colon cancer. His unexpected passing not only sent ripples of grief across the globe but also shone a spotlight on a disease that had been lurking under the radar, especially among younger adults.

Interestingly, while Chadwick was diagnosed at the young age of 39 and left us just four years later, his age group has been witnessing an alarming trend. Colon cancer has historically been more common among those over 50, but recent times have seen a stark rise in cases among the younger generation. As per the American Cancer Society, individuals born around 1990 face double the risk compared to those born around 1950. While the exact causes remain a topic of research, various factors like diet, environmental exposures, and certain food additives could be potential culprits.

Colon Cancer Demystified

Here is the good news: colon cancer can be largely kept at bay with appropriate awareness and timely screenings.

For those of us who might need a quick recap from our biology classes, let’s dive into understanding colon cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines it as a condition where cells in the colon or rectum multiply uncontrollably. To put it simply, the colon and rectum are essential parts of the large intestine involved in digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste elimination. Food moves from the small to the large intestine, passing through the colon before reaching the rectum, which is essentially the final stage before waste is excreted.

A significant factor leading to colon cancer is the growth of polyps – small, abnormal growths that can form in the colon or rectum. The good news is that these polyps can be identified and removed with screenings like colonoscopies before they evolve into a bigger threat. Yet, the tricky part about this disease is its initial subtleness. Early on, symptoms may be non-existent or easily confused with other digestive issues like IBD, IBS, or even hemorrhoids.

Recognizing the Signs

Common signs to watch out for include variations in stool patterns, blood in stools, consistent bloating, abdominal discomfort, nausea, rapid weight loss, rectal bleeding, and anemia. Fatigue, a constant feeling of needing to relieve oneself without actual relief, and reduced energy levels are also indicators, as outlined by the American Cancer Society.

But a crucial note of caution: Just because you might be experiencing some of these symptoms does not definitively mean you have colon cancer. As many symptoms can be shared with other conditions, it’s of paramount importance to see a gastroenterologist to get a clear picture. This underscores the significance of routine screenings and staying proactive about our health.

Colon Cancer Risk Factors: What You Should Know

Colorectal cancer has emerged as a significant health concern, touching lives across gender, ethnic, and racial lines. However, there are several risk factors and demographic details that can amplify one’s vulnerability to this disease.

1. Gender’s Role: Though both genders should adhere to colon cancer screening guidelines, men stand at a slightly higher risk of encountering this ailment than women, as per the American Cancer Society.

2. Age Matters, But Not Absolutely: While colon cancer is more common in individuals over 50, younger populations are not immune. Alarmingly, the American Cancer Society reported that 12% of colorectal cancer cases in 2020 involved individuals below 50. This percentage has seen a steep incline compared to previous decades.

3. Lifestyle Habits: Certain lifestyle choices are directly linked with an elevated risk of colorectal cancer: high intake of red and processed meats and low fiber consumption, can be culprits. Also, a sedentary lifestyle lacking regular physical activity can heighten the risk.

4. Environmental Exposures: Emerging concerns point towards factors like excessive antibiotic usage, food additives, and preservatives. These elements can potentially disrupt the gut’s microbial balance, which could lead to intestinal inflammation – a factor connected to a higher risk of colon cancer.

5. Health Conditions and Family History: Those with a history of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, should be more cautious. Moreover, a family history of colon cancer or polyps multiplies the risk.

6. Racial and Ethnic Disparities: According to a study conducted by John Hopkins Medicine, individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (originating from Eastern European or Russian regions) demonstrate an elevated risk of colorectal cancer, attributed to specific genetic mutations.

Race and ethnicity significantly influence one’s susceptibility to colon cancer, particularly in communities of color. African Americans face a 20% higher risk of developing, and a 40% higher risk of dying from colorectal cancer when compared to other groups. This increased vulnerability is rooted in systemic racism, which often impedes their access to quality healthcare.

Due to financial and access struggles faced by Black, Indigenous, and people of color they are not screened properly. Besides the limited access to medical care, when they do get access, they often face prolonged wait times and potential bias.

Be sure to discuss ALL your risk factors with your doctor.  Understanding these risk factors is crucial in promoting early detection and preventive measures.

The Essential Guide to Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer screenings can quite literally be lifesavers. The sooner we detect colon cancer, the higher the likelihood of overcoming it. Delaying the process, however, allows the disease more opportunity to spread, diminishing the chances of a cure.

So, when should one consider these screenings? The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force generally advises initiating these screenings from age 45, then continuing at set intervals. Nevertheless, if colorectal polyps are found or cancer family history exists or if you have conditions like IBD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that you might need an earlier or more frequent surveillance schedule.