Chadwick Boseman’s death in 2020 from stage 4 colon cancer – at just 43 years old – was not only a shock to millions of the actor’s fans – it illuminated a shocking fact. Colorectal cancer is on the rise among younger people (and particularly Black men), with half of all new diagnoses occurring in people under 66 years old, according to the American Cancer Society. In 1989, the median age of colon cancer diagnoses was 72.
“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths when men and women are combined, second only to lung cancer,” says Marie Audett, MD, FACS, a fellowship-trained general and colorectal surgeon for Atlantic Medical Group. “The good news is, it’s very preventable if precursor lesions are found and removed before they have the ability to develop into cancer.”
Both the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons have recently changed their guidelines about when individuals at average risk for developing colon cancer should begin regular screenings. Both organizations recommend starting at age 45 rather than the previously recommended age of 50.
“Though there are several new screening modalities today, the most thorough way to screen for colorectal cancer is to have a colonoscopy,” advises Dr. Audett. “Using a lighted, flexible tube to view your rectum and colon, a physician can find and remove abnormal growths, called polyps. Not all polyps are precancerous, but we remove all that we find and send them off to the lab to examine their size and type. This helps determine the appropriate interval for the patient’s next screening, which – for an average-risk person – is 10 years.”
The most important thing, says Dr. Audett, is to know your risks for developing colorectal cancer (especially your family history) as well as the symptoms.
Atlantic Medical Group, Associated Colon and Rectal Surgeons
Medical Arts Center (MAC) 1, 33 Overlook Road, Suite 211
Summit, NJ 07901
- High-fat diet
- Diet low in fruit and vegetables
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Changes in bowel habits, like increased diarrhea
- Blood in your stool
- Rectal pain
- Unintentional weight loss
- Feeling like you “have to go,” but cannot