BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The death of Hollywood actor Chadwick Boseman is raising awareness about the dangers of colon cancer.
Boseman, who starred in movies like “42” and “Black Panther,” died Friday at just 43 years old after a four-year battle with colon cancer. According to current medical recommendations, most people don’t need to get screened for colon cancer until at least age 45. But UAB colorectal surgeon Dr. Daniel Chu said cases are increasing among adults ages 24 to 45. For that reason, people need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms.
“The most important thing that we can point out is to not dismiss symptoms of rectal bleeding or abdominal pain that’s unexplained,” Chu said. “There just has to be a higher index of suspicion for something like colorectal cancer.”
If you have either symptom, Chu advises asking your primary care physician about colorectal cancer.
Future screening recommendations may change, he said, with so much research being done on the disease. The current recommendations are that most people should get regular screenings starting at 50 years old. Black people, who run a greater risk of getting colorectal cancer, should start at age 45. If the idea of getting a colonoscopy makes you uncomfortable, Chu said other screening options, such as stool samples, are also effective.
“Colorectal cancer is preventable. That’s the whole thing about colorectal cancer,” he said. “And so we can really impact deaths from colorectal cancer by improving our screening, improving our education of everyone to go out there and get screened. That really is the primary message that you should get screened.”
UAB earned national recognition earlier this year for a campaign it created to encourage screening among employees. The campaign helped increase screening from 54% to 68% over a five-year span. The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable awarded UAB with its grand prize this spring.
“Our whole movement here is to tell our staff and faculty that the most important thing is to be screened somehow,” Chu said. “It doesn’t have to be colonoscopy, just some way you should be screened. And that really starts the ball rolling in terms of working someone up for any major problems.”
The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable’s goal is to increase testing to 80% in every community across the country.
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