Colon cancer can go undetected in younger people due to screening guidelines

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The death of Hollywood actor Chadwick Boseman left many people wondering how can someone have colon cancer so young and die from it.

NewsChannel 6 learned that there are two types of colon cancer, one you may be expecting could happen to you and the other you may not. That’s what one University Hospital doctor said is the difference between patients who are treated and even cured to those who die from the disease.

“The rate of colon cancer has been increasing 2 percent every year,” Dr. Katherine Baysinger told us. “And unfortunately, the rate is also increasing in patients under the age of 50.”

Dr. Baysinger, University Hospital Colon and Rectal Surgeon, said since the first colon cancer was recorded in the early 1990s, numbers have gone up, slightly. But since the guidelines only call for people age 45 and older to get a colonoscopy, the prevalence among younger people is going unnoticed.

“Patients that are younger typically don’t come in to see the doctor until you’re really not feeling well,” Dr. Baysinger said. “Sometimes there are more advanced stages of cancer because you’re not expecting to have problems.”

Dr. Baysinger explained that colon cancer is like any other cancer, a group of abnormal cells that can travel throughout the body and cause problems. When advanced, you develop a blockage.

“Seeing blood in your bowel movements is never normal. A lot of patients would come in saying hey I have hemorrhoids and it might not be hemorrhoids,” she said.

But there is good news.

“It is something that is well studied and very treatable. Colon cancer is potentially curable and out of all the types of cancer you could possible get, we have a lot of good treatments,” she said.

Anyone with the hereditary type of colon cancer would be screened 10 years prior to their loved one’s diagnosis. But those with sporadic colon cancer brought on through the environment would miss that opportunity.

“There is a significant fear and stigma of getting a colonoscopy, so there are other ways to get tested, not just through a colonoscopy.”

Dr. Baysinger said overall, pay attention to your own body.

There are at home screening kits approved by the FDA and available online that can help you determine if you need to make an appointment.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is a nationwide non-profit supporting those with a colorectal cancer diagnosis, who are interested in having a screening, or are survivors. Their free helpline can be reached at (877) 422-2030.

They also host a Facebook support group that can be found by typing in “Colorectal Cancer Alliance” and “Blue Hope Nation.”

From Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance:

“The Colorectal Cancer Alliance mourns with Chadwick Boseman’s fans, friends, and family over the loss of this bright star to colon cancer. Somberly, we share that young-onset colorectal cancer is on the rise and cuts short thousands of lives every year. 

“Colorectal cancer awareness is hampered by an intense stigma, particularly in the Black community. Cancer is a personal battle, and we respect Boseman’s choice to shield the public from his diagnosis. The Alliance, however, encourages open conversations about this disease. Even superheroes can develop colorectal cancer. 

“Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the U.S. when men and women are combined, and it disproportionately affects our black and brown communities. With education and awareness to defeat the stigma, resources for those diagnosed, and innovative research toward cures, we can end colorectal cancer in our lifetime. 

“#ChadwickForever.”

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