According to the CDC, Colon Cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. African Americans are roughly 20 percent more prone to colon cancer than non-Hispanic whites, with an almost 40 percent higher rate of death.
The death of Chadwick Boseman at age 43 due to colon cancer has put a spotlight on a disease that’s on the rise among young people.
The “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman died on 28th August 2020, following a four year battle with colon cancer. He was initially diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in 2016. By this time, cancer had already grown through his intestinal wall which eventually progressed to stage 4, indicating cancer had spread beyond his digestive tract.
Rates rising among younger people
The colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer rates are rising among younger groups of people. ~ American Cancer Society (ACS). However, they’re usually diagnosed with colon cancer at last stage as they assume their symptoms are due to something less serious. Some of the symptoms of colon cancer are:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
According to Dr. Elena Ivanina, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, “The colon cancer has already spread to other organs before diagnose in almost 20-25% of younger patients.” At this point, chemotherapy is the primary therapy, although surgery plays a role.
Colon cancer is curable if caught early
According to the director of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Long Island, New York, Dr. David Rivadeneira, “Colon cancer is extremely curable if diagnosed in early stages – stage 1 and 2. In these stages, the cancer is limited to the intestinal wall and chances of curing cancer is high with surgery. It usually involves removing the segment of the colon that has cancer along with the nearby lymph nodes. Minimally invasive approaches like laparoscopic (“key-hole”) surgery or robotic surgery are used for the surgery to remove the colon that has cancer.
If the cancer is diagnosed at stage 3 and has spread through the lymph nodes, the treatment requires chemotherapy as well as surgery. The survival rate of stage 3 colon cancer patients is 40 to 65 percent. However, if cancer is diagnosed at stage 4 and has spread to other major organs, the chances of survival with chemotherapy are 35 percent 5 year survival rate.
Who is most at risk?
The people who’re at greatest risk for colorectal cancer include:
- People with genetic susceptibility known as HNPCC (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer), also known as Lynch syndrome
- People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- People with a prior history of colon cancer or intestinal polyps
- Smokers and obese are also prone to developing colon cancer
The bottom line
The recent death of Chadwick Boseman raised the concern that how colorectal cancer rates are increasing among people under 50, especially the African American community. According to the experts this type of cancer has an over 90% 5-year survival rate if diagnosed at an early stage. And if diagnosed at stage 2 or stage 3, the survival rate drops to about 14 percent. They also recommended the people with higher risk of colon cancer should begin screening at earlier their age (45) rather than 50.
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