Local doctor says black Americans at greater risk of colon cancer as Chadwick Boseman’s death puts spotlight on disease

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — In life, “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman was a hero who inspired millions across the world. In death, he has put a spotlight on the second deadliest cancer in the United States. One local doctor says that while talking about early symptoms can be awkward, it’s key to beating colon cancer.

Boseman’s death shocked millions over the weekend. The star silently battled colon cancer for four years. His passing is shining a light on the disease, which doctors are diagnosing at a staggering rate.

“Patients younger than the age of 50 have actually seen an increase in rate in diagnosis and death over the last 40 years, a slow climb but an alarming climb. Most recently it appears to be a rise of at least 1-2% per year,” said Dr. Sumeet Tewani.

Gastrointestinal specialist Dr. Sumeet Tewani with Rockford Gastroenterology Associates says the best way to fight colon cancer is to get ahead of it–by undergoing a colonoscopy every ten years. Right now, the suggested screening is age 50, but earlier for African Americans.

“The recommendation for African American patients is to start at age 45 because African Americans do have a higher risk of colon cancer at an earlier age,” Dr. Tewani explained.

Tewani says it’s unknown why colon cancer is prevalent among black patients. But regardless of ethnicity, knowing family history and paying attention to warning signs can be life-saving.

“Symptoms to look out for would include a change in bowel habits, that includes new, onset or change such as diarrhea, constipation, a change in caliber such as narrowing of the stool that’s persistent beyond a few days,” the doctor added.

Although the procedure may be uncomfortable for some, Tewani believes colonoscopies are the gold standard in early detection.

“Once patients have gone through it the first time, they realize that its not so scary,” Dr. Tewani concluded.

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