BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death shocked the world, but more surprising for many was his four year battle with colon cancer.
Doctors say this type of cancer is affecting younger patients. The typical screening age for colon cancer is 50 years old. Boseman developed cancer in his late 30s, about a decade before the recommended age for screenings.
“The rate in younger individuals is going up, that is not well understood, the reason for that is not known, but it is a clear trend, and over the last 20 years, the rate has doubled,” said Dr. Joshua Wolf, a colorectal surgeon with LifeBridge Health. “It’s a real concern that we all have that these individuals are presenting earlier.”
Wolf said the American Cancer Society already recommends that screenings should start at 45 years old instead of 50 years old. The screening age would be even younger for those who have a family history.
People who have a family history should start screening 10 years sooner than when the youngest member of your family got the disease, he said.
“That’s just why it’s so important to understand your individual risk based on family history, and it’s so important if there are any symptoms at all, get them checked out, don’t wait, don’t delay,” Wolf said.
Boseman’s bravery in Marvel’s Black Panther drew global acclaim, but it’s his private four year battle with colon cancer while he was still working that’s showcasing him in a different light.
In an interview before his death, Boseman said, “At times I was going from one set to the other, I was filming both at the same time. So to see the segway from that to this, that probably is going to be the best thing for me about this movie.”
Boseman never publicly discussed his battle with cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, from 2012 to 2016, colorectal cancer rates were about 20 percent higher in Black people compared to white people. The death rates were higher too.
The agency expects the number of total colon cancer cases to be at 104,610 for 2020.
However, doctors remind the public the disease is curable.
“Patients can be cured of the disease if it’s early enough. And with minimally invasive strategies and these advanced surgical techniques, they can be back to their normal lives within six to eight weeks,” Wolf said.
Earlier this year, Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini was diagnosed with colon cancer at 27 years old. He started treatment earlier this year.
Wolf said while men have about a 20 percent increased risk compared to women, the advice remains the same: people should always see a doctor if something seems off.