Chadwick Boseman’s colon cancer death brings up importance of screening

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 4:34 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The death of Chadwick Boseman is bringing his battle with cancer into a national conversation.

Boseman died of colon cancer at age 43 -- a situation that seems rare, but it’s a growing concern.

After all, the Golden Rule for getting a colonoscopy is the day you turn 50.

But doctors say that may be changing as more cases are found in younger people.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised because I have seen this happen many a time,” AU Health gastroenterologist Dr. Satish Rao said of Boseman’s death.

Rao says he’s seen colon cancer kill a 34-year-old nurse he used to work with.

“Nobody should be dying from this disease in this day and age because we have very good screening tools,” Rao said.

Unfortunately, not many people pay attention to the screening guidelines -- especially in Georgia.

“The recommendation is we should be up to 70 or 80 percent of the population we should have screened,” Rao said. “We are really in the 40 or 50 percent range.”

But when should you get screened? The American Cancer Society now says age 45, but research at AU is showing it’s even earlier.

“It became very clear that we have to lower this to 40 years now for African-Americans,” Rao said.

And 45 for everyone else. CDC data shows African-Americans and men are more susceptible.

“We do see differences in socioeconomic status, incomes over a period of a year, which might change our diet,” University Hospital gastroenterologist Dr. Rakhi Kheraj said. “It might change our access to healthcare.”

Kheraj recommends staying away from processed meats and paying close attention to family history.

Despite Boseman’s death, a life lost to soon is an opportunity to have a tough conversation.

A life lost too soon-- is an opportunity to have a tough conversation.

“This is nothing to be embarrassed about,” Kheraj said. “It’s life saving.”

Health officials say the rule with detecting any cancer is of course screening. So don’t ignore or wait on getting tested until life calms down or COVID goes away.

Doctors say if a direct family member gets colon cancer, you should get screened 10 years earlier than them if possible.

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