Prolific "Black Panther" star, Chadwick Boseman, died earlier this year after fighting a silent four year battle against colon cancer. Boseman was only 43 at the time of his death and is among one of many colon cancer cases on the rise among a younger demographic, a concerning trend that has brought the deadly disease to center stage.
Colon and rectal cancer (aka colorectal cancer or CRC) rates are growing among younger groups of people, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society (ACS). Estimates show that approximately 12% of colon cancer cases in the U.S. are among individuals under 50. This latest finding has spurred the U.S. public health task force to update their colon cancer screening guidelines, recommending that the minimum age change from 50 to 45.
The precise cause of colorectal cancer remains unclear; however, some risk factors, including cigarette smoking, a diet of red meats, and heavy alcohol consumption, are strongly linked to the disease. There is also a high risk of contracting the disease in people with genetic cancer syndromes or a family history of colorectal cancer.
In the United States, African Americans have the highest prevalence of colorectal cancer. The risk of contracting the disease is also higher for Ashkenazi Jews. If you have no other risk factors and are in one of those racial groups, your doctor may encourage you to undergo screening even earlier than the recommended age of 45.
In the early phases, many individuals with colorectal cancer experience no symptoms. Symptoms may vary as they appear depending on the size and location of cancer in your large intestine.
Symptoms include but are not limited to:
A sudden change in bowel movements, typically presenting with diarrhea, constipation, or atypical stool consistency
Rectal bleeding or bloody stools
Abdominal discomforts, such as cramps, trapped gas, or pain
Feeling as though your bowels are not completely empty after evacuation
Weakness or fatigue
Unexplained, often rapid, weight loss
Undergoing a colonoscopy is the "gold-standard" to diagnose colorectal cancer. Each case of colorectal cancer is unique, from the position of your cancer, its stage, and any other underlying health issues. As a result, there are varying approaches when it comes to colorectal cancer treatment. Most often, surgery to remove the cancer is required. Other therapies may also be prescribed, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Be aware. Be seen. Be screened if warranted.