With the passing of beloved actor Chadwick Boseman from stage four colon cancer, it’s important to talk about colon cancer and how it affects Black men.
According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in men and women. They currently estimate that the United States 104,610 new cases of colon cancer in 2020.
Additionally, African Americans have a 20 percent higher risk of developing colon cancer and a 45 percent mortality rate.
“African-Americans are more likely to get colon cancer, they’re more likely to have an advanced stage of disease when they’re diagnosed with colon cancer, they’re more likely to die from colon cancer and they have shorter survival after diagnosis with colon cancer,” said Dr. Fola May, assistant professor of medicine at UCLA and a researcher at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
However, medical professionals say that colon cancer is highly preventable and they believe that screening is the first step towards lowering the numbers for Black men.
The American College of Gastroenterologists recommends that Black men start screening between the ages of 40-45. Currently, only 38 percent of Black men actually get colonoscopies, putting them further at risk for developing colon cancer.
Because medical professionals are starting to see an increasing amount of younger people affected by colon cancer, people in their 20s and 30s, they also recommend that people who have families affected by colon cancer start getting screened as early as 30-years-old.
The most common form of screening is a colonoscopy, an image-based test, where doctors look for precancerous polyps and remove them during the test.
It is important to note that there are various types of polyps and not all polyps turn into cancer. In fact, precancerous polyps usually take many years to become cancer.
For men who haven’t been screened, a couple of symptoms that might point to colon cancer include rectal bleeding, iron deficiency, abdominal pain, narrow stools, and unexplained weight loss.
Researchers have also linked diet, exercise, tobacco use, and lack of access to medical treatment as reasons why Black men continue to die at alarming rates from cancer that they believe can almost always be prevented.
For diet, they recommend finding that anti-inflammatory, antioxidant foods put people at lower risks for condition. As a result, they recommend plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as high fiber foods such as Whole-grain cereals and breads, brown rice, berries, kidney beans, or other legumes.
Despite everything, the message that the medical profession is trying to send to Black men is get screened as early and often as possible because one of those doctor visits can save your life.