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Chadwick Boseman’s death brings attention to colon cancer

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 3:18 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -Last week, Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman lost his battle to stage three colon cancer. He was just 43 years old.

His death is putting the spotlight on the disease, which research shows is increasingly affecting younger people. According to the American Cancer Society, 12% of Colon Cancers diagnosed in 2020 would be in people younger than 50. ACS has changed the recommended age for a person to get their first colonoscopy from 50 to 45.

Recent research also shows African Americans are at a higher risk for the disease.

Jessica Gugel, an oncology nurse navigator at Prevea Cancer Center at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital says younger people need to be aware of this disease.

“It depends on an individual risk factor so people with average risk should start at age 50, if you have history of cancer or inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease polyps, those things warrant increased screening,” Gugel says.

Gugel says some things people can do to lower their risk include following a healthy diet full of fiber, exercising, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol.

Danielle Dahlberg, an oncology nurse at Marshfield Clinic Cancer Center shares a similar message, expressing it is essential for young people to discuss symptoms with their doctors.

The American Cancer Society lists symptoms of colon cancer as a change in bowel movements, rectal bleeding, dark stools or blood in the stool, abdominal pain/crams, weakness and fatigue and unintentional weight loss.

“Young people don’t want to talk about bowel movements or abdominal pain and they could be embarrassed to talk to their physician about it but it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront that it is OK if you are having rectal bleeding or abdominal pain that you bring it up because the earliest we can diagnose it the better we can treat it,” Dahlberg says.

Dahlberg says it is also essential to know your family history and to share that information with your physician.

Both nurses say the most important thing to do is follow through with routine colonoscopies.

“A colonoscopy is uncomfortable for a day and is good for ten years as long as it looks good so it really is a great way to keep on top of your colon health,” Gugel says. “Colon cancer is treatable if caught early and a colonoscopy is a great way to do that.”

“Colonoscopies while people hate to have them done, are so important, it does have a high cure rate if it is found early,” Dahlberg says.

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