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Comprehensive Cancer Center

"Black Panther" star’s death a reminder of cancer screening importance

Chadwick Boseman smiling and holding an award

Even superheroes aren’t immune to cancer, as we learned from the death on Friday of acclaimed actor Chadwick Boseman, who starred in movies as the fictional Black Panther and the real Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown.

The 43-year-old’s death from colon cancer is a sobering reminder to get screened for the third most-common cancer in men and women in the U.S. The Comprehensive Cancer Center at Community Hospital saw 50 new cases of colon cancer in 2018, nearly evenly divided between men and women.

The American Cancer Society recommends people of average risk start regular screenings at age 45. If you are younger, like Boseman, you should talk to your doctor if you have symptoms such as a change in bowel habits that last more than a few days, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, cramping, weakness and fatigue, or unintended weight loss.

“A family history of colon cancer, particularly if it appeared under age 50, also raises the risk of an inherited gene for colon cancer and requires additional testing,” says Dr. Grant Swanson, medical director of Community Hospital’s cancer center. “We encourage people to speak with their doctor regarding the various screening tests and simply pick the one they feel most comfortable with. The key is picking a method and sticking with it.”

Several test options are available for colorectal cancer screening:

Stool-based tests

  • Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
  • Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year
  • Multi-targeted stool DNA test (mt-sDNA) every 3 years

Visual (structural) exams of the colon and rectum

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every 5 years

Find information about colon cancer risk factors, screenings, and more at cancer.org.

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