Sad demise of actor Chadwick Boseman has left his fan and entertainment industry with a bolt out of blue. He was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, Chadwick battled with it as it progressed to stage IV in the coming years which eventually claimed his life. For the past four years the actor was struggling with the disease and did not publicly disclose his diagnosis and yet he persevered through it all. As stated in the tweet, “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.” Some men are immortalized in their artwork, this talented actor will be remembered and honoured forever in his movies such as Black Panther. He was an extraordinary person precisely because he managed to stay humble in his profession, despite his own health struggle.
His death has left many expressing surprise that how someone so young can die of colorectal cancer?
But the scientific reality is that the rates of colorectal cancer are rising among adolescent and young adults (defined as individuals under 45 years of age).
Colon cancer starts in the large intestine (colon). The colon is the final part of our digestive tract. Many people who suffer from colon cancer do not experience any symptoms during the early stages of the disease. When symptoms start appearing, they vary depending on the size of cancer’s size and its location in your intestines. A continuous change in your bowel habits, unexplained weight loss and fatigue and weakness are early signs of colon cancer, which coincide with other diseases as well and may lead to delay in diagnosis and treatment.
One is more likely to develop Colorectal cancer (CRC) if any of your blood relatives have the disease. If more than one person in the family has had it, you are at even greater risk. It might be tough for some people to talk about their colon and bowel movements but CRC is the third leading cancer diagnosed globally and an important cause of cancer-related mortality. Due to the often unpleasant systems associated with the digestive system, colorectal cancer also suffers from stigma, with people often reluctant to discuss or seek medical help for their symptoms.
Of interest, while we have witnessed a declining incidence trend over the past few decades in the older population, incidence rates for adolescents and young adults have been increasing steadily. This upward trend in the young may be attributed to lack of routine screening and emerging lifestyle issues. Also, studies have shown that some ethnic groups may be at higher risk of CRC than other counterparts.
Approximately, one in every five individuals affected with Young-onset CRC carries a pathogenic germline variant in genes associated with predisposition to cancer. Young individuals with CRC tend to be diagnosed at later stages and often present with metastatic disease. The genetic screening test is available to diagnose risk for CRC any other hereditary cancers. Myriad provides a genetic testing, Myriad MyRisk, which carries analysis all genes associated with Lynch Syndrome and CRC risk, for mutations, and provides vital information, that helps you and your health professionals make better decisions, before the onset of the disease. Young-onset CRC tumors arise predominantly in the distal colon. Although Young-onset CRC patients are more likely than their older counterparts to be treated with multimodality chemotherapy regimens, more aggressive treatments have not yielded measurable survival gains. Emerging data correlating tumor molecular features with outcomes justify further investigation into mechanisms of carcinogenesis to elucidate how specific factors (inherited and/or acquired) might stimulate young-onset colorectal neoplasia along with regular screening for CRC.
As T’Challa says, “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers.” So if you have a risk of CRC, take forward the steps to get yourself screened for it rather than delaying it.
Disclaimer: Opinions in this post is solely for education purposes. This post has been written from the author’s personal point of view, combined with previously published public statements from Chadwick Boseman Family, with reference links included wherever applicable