LUBBOCK, TX — Tributes are still pouring in for actor Chadwick Boseman who died on Friday after a private battle with colon cancer, which is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.
KAMC’s medical expert, gastroenterologist Dr. Sameer Islam, shared what you need to know about the disease and when it’s time to get screened.
KAMC News: We know Boseman was just 43 years old. Is this type of cancer something that young people need to be screened for?
Dr. Islam: This is very controversial because we don’t know the answer as of now. With more and more younger people being diagnosed with colon cancer, we’re just learning about what type of cancer it is and how it is affecting our younger population. But we do know that if you have symptoms or a family history, the answer is absolutely yes.
KAMC News: Tell us a little more about what those symptoms might look like.
Dr. Islam: Symptoms can range from bleeding, changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain or maybe just some weight loss, but the scary thing about colon cancer is that it can be present without symptoms, which is why we typically recommend screening for individuals at least starting at age 45 but no later than the age of 50 years old.
KAMC News: That’s very frightening. If it is caught early, how treatable is it?
Dr. Islam: The good thing about colon cancer — even though nothing is good about that — is that if it’s caught early, not only is it treatable, but it is very curable, and so for a lot of our patients, if we’re able to catch it early, localize it, we can remove the cancer and they are cancer free typically for the rest of their lives.
KAMC News: You said that around 45 people should start seriously considering getting screened, but what about people who have a family history of colon cancer — let’s say a parent — when should they start looking into getting a screening?
Dr. Islam: Having a first degree relative like a parent, a brother or a sister puts you at a such higher risk, we commend starting screening at least 10 years before that parent was diagnosed. So if your parent was at the age of 40 years old, you should be screened at the age of 30 years old.