Remembering Chadwick Boseman: What You Know About Colon Cancer Could Save Your Life
The world is a little less brighter following the death of American actor Chadwick Boseman of Black Panther fame. Boseman bravely battled colon cancer, a disease that is the third leading cause of death among cancer types in the world.
As a tribute to his work and spirit, the best way to honour him is to spread information about colon cancer. Knowing causes, signs, and possible ways to avoid it could save the life of someone you know, or your own.
What is Colon Cancer?
Sometimes called colorectal cancer, colon cancer begins in the large intestine or colon. This is the final portion of your digestive tract and while it usually affects older adults, don’t be fooled that it can’t happen to you even if you’re young.
Polyps tend to form benignly but over time, some of them can become cancerous. Because the polyps are often very small, they may not produce any symptoms. Therefore, doctors urge regular screenings to catch colon cancer early on.
Is There Anything That Causes Colon Cancer?
Unfortunately, doctors don’t know exactly what causes it. What they do know is that otherwise healthy cells in your colon mutate in DNA. When this happens, the cells continue to divide with those mutations and create a tumour. Over time, these cancerous cells destroy healthy surrounding tissues. They can also move to other parts of your body, leading to metastasis which makes it more difficult to treat cancer in multiple locations.
While the cause isn’t known, certain factors (both internal and external) can put you at a greater risk of a colon cancer diagnosis. These risk factors include:
- Over 50 years old
- African American race
- Inflammatory conditions, especially in the intestines
- Family history
- Low fibre and high fat diets
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Drinking and smoking
- Radiation therapy for other cancers
It should also be noted that in recent years, doctors have found that the rates of colon cancer in people younger than 50 are increasing. Chadwick Boseman was only 43 when he died from colon cancer.
What Signs Should I Look for with Colon Cancer?
As mentioned, screenings help catch colon cancer early on because often, when the polyps are small, you won’t notice anything, or your symptoms will be so mild you’ll disregard them.
Here’s what you should watch out for:
- Take note of your bowel movements and see if there are drastic changes even in consistency
- Blood in your stool or rectal bleeding
- Constant, nagging abdominal discomfort that includes gas, cramps, or pain
- Feeling like your bowels aren’t emptying completely
- Unexplained weight loss
If you do notice any of these signs, you should schedule a colon cancer screening just to make sure. The sooner you do, the sooner you can take action on your treatments if needed. This goes for any type of cancer as well since the key is early detection.
Possible Preventions for Colon Cancer?
Getting a clean bill of health is a blessing, but if you have any of the risk factors for colon cancers listed above, you should do everything you can to prevent it. Again, getting screened for colon cancer is the top recommendation if you have an increased risk, even if you are younger than 50.
You can also make lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risks, which will benefit your overall health and help lower your risk for other types of cancers and diseases too.
– Eat healthy foods
Experts theorize that perhaps the reason there’s an increase with younger people getting colon cancer is due to diet. A healthy diet considerably lowers your risks for colon cancer and other diseases. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables plus whole grains that will give you the mix of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre that you need.
– Don’t drink or smokes
Smoking isn’t good for anyone so if you quit now, you’ll drastically reduce your risks of disease. As for drinking, moderation is the key, but if you’re in a high-risk group for colon cancer, you may want to abstain for good.
– Exercise regularly
Regular exercise keeps your body healthy from head to toe. It also boosts immunity. If you exercise at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week, you’ll be setting yourself up for better overall health.
– Keep your weight healthy
Balance with your weight is always good for the health of your internal organs. If you’re overweight, take steps to get to the right weight for your body type. And if you’re underweight, work on getting to where you need to be for a healthy body.
Getting Help for Colon Cancer
It’s scary to worry about diseases like colon cancer and other cancers. However, when you take care of your health, you’ll be less likely to get the kind of diagnosis you fear. Getting help involves screening processes that can help see inside and either give you the all-clear or treat it as soon as possible.
While undergoing a screening might sound unpleasant, being vigilant about having your health checked out is critical to your survival. In fact, most people diagnosed with colon cancer have a 90% chance of survival if they catch it early on.
Treatment for colon cancer will depend on how early you’ve detected it. In the early stages, minimally invasive surgery will likely be an option. However, later stages may require partial removal of your colon. Advanced stages often utilize chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy as the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
If there’s anything you can learn from the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, it’s to now be fully aware that colon cancer could happen to you too. Keep an eye out on how your body looks and feels and get checked out if anything feels unusual to you. Get that colon cancer screening too and you’ll be better able to beat it when you stay ahead of the curve.
Photo credit: Chadwick Boseman’s official Twitter account.