Health experts encourage people to get checked for colon and rectal cancers after Chadwick Boseman’s death

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Known for his roles in hit movies like Black Panther and 42, actor Chadwick Boseman died Friday at the age of 43.

His family said for the past four years, Boseman battled colon cancer.

“Unlike other cancers or other treatments, there’s not as often the hair loss or the visual effects of looking like a cancer patient,” said Melissa Swanson, a GI Care Coordinator at Illinois CancerCare.

It’s the third deadliest cancer for men and women.

Health professionals said colon and rectal cancers are often stigmatized and can be an uncomfortable conversation. They said Boseman’s death brought a spotlight to the issue, and hope it encourages people to take action.

“Now more than ever there is reason to remove the stigma and save a life. Either yours or somebody else that you love or care for,” said Dr. Madhuri Bajaj, a hematologist/oncologist at Illinois CancerCare.

Health experts said more young people are being diagnosed with colon and rectal cancers. That’s changing doctor’s recommendations.

“Him being younger is certainly shocking to a lot of people that read about it and learn about it, but for us as oncologists, its what we’re seeing,” said Bajaj.

“The recommendation has been shifted to age 45 to be the first colonoscopy. And after that, it really depends on what they find at that colonoscopy.”

For people with a family history, they’re encouraged to get checked 10 years before the age a family member was diagnosed.

They said stigma often prevents people from getting checked or scheduling a colonoscopy.

“It’s an uncomfortable topic I think, so I think that they may be a barrier to people getting things checked out,” said Swanson.

“Unfortunately, colorectal, anal cancers…these are things that not everybody wants to talk about publicly, mostly because you don’t talk about your poop, right? But it is something that is preventable,” said Bajaj.

Doctors also said while colonoscopy screenings can diagnose colon cancer, it can also be therapeutic and prevent cancer from progressing.

The best thing you can do is to pay attention to your body and any changes in bowel movements.

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