The 2020 death of actor Chadwick Boseman at the age of 43 highlighted a concerning problem people in the medical field have known all too well - that colorectal cancer disproportionately affects the Black community.
Colon cancer - the second deadliest form of cancer in the United States - is particularly devastating for Black people. According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans are:
✔️ 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer
✔️ 40% more likely to die from it than most other races or ethnic groups
Compounding the problem is that even though colon cancer is treatable, if not preventable when caught early, African Americans - specifically black men - tend to have lower screening rates. Delayed screening can result in late diagnosis, at a more advanced stage, resulting in lower survival rates.
Know Your Risks
The American Cancer Society now recommends people at average risk of the disease begin regular screening at age 45. Those at higher risks should talk with their doctor about whether screening should begin sooner. This includes people with:
- A family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease)
- A known or suspected family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer, or HNPCC)
- A personal history of radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
Know the Symptoms
Recently, the number of colon cancer cases affecting younger people has been on the rise. So, even if you're not yet 45, it's still important to know the symptoms of the disease no matter how old you are. Anyone who experiences the following signs should contact their physician.
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that's not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or pain in the abdomen (belly)
- Feeling tired or weak
- Losing weight without trying
The early stages of colorectal cancer usually present no symptoms. The good news is that it is highly treatable if detected early. Colonoscopy is the only test that can actually prevent colorectal cancer, with its unique ability to remove polyps before they turn into cancer. It is the only screening test recommended at 10-year intervals because it’s by far the best test at finding precancerous polyps.
Spread the Word
The best way to turn around this trend is to start talking about colon cancer and the risks associated with it. If you have a business or organization, we invite you to print out our informational flyer for display.