Your Health Matters


Death of Chadwick Boseman highlights the need for colon cancer screenings among African-American men

Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 18:27:37-04

With news of "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman passing away last week from colon cancer, it has shed light on the issue, especially in the black community where experts say the risk is higher.

Boseman’s family revealed Friday he had died from colon cancer at 43-years-old. Boseman, who was best known for playing King T-Challa in Marvel's "Black Panther", past away Friday. The movie legacy he left behind outlives him, as does the heightened awareness of colorectal cancer.

Experts say the disease responsible for the second-highest cancer deaths in the United States is also is quite preventable if caught on time. Yet, it kills more black people, and specifically, black men than any other race. reports that from 2012-2016, black people have been 40% more likely to die from colorectal cancer than white people, and 80% more likely than Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Adventist Health Doctor Geneva Lewis, NAACP Regional Health Chair, said the factors can be socioeconomic, but also cultural.

“It’s intimidating, the idea to have a scope going into your rectum. I think that deters men, and especially African-American men from wanting to go and have that procedure done."

As a case manager in gastrointestinal health, Lewis has seen other ethnic groups more likely to get check-ups than black men.

Experts say colonoscopy screenings are the recommended way of catching this overgrowth of the lower intestine. Symptoms include bleeding, anemia and changes in stool, including blood.

“The true weapon against fear is knowledge. So, speaking to your physician, getting more information about what concerns you or is bothering you, and getting treatment is important," explained Marcher Thompson, MD a radiation oncologist at AIS Cancer Center. "Also I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but it’s important to still see your doctors because cancer won’t wait."

People at higher risk of colon cancer include those suffering from irritable bowel diseases or people with a family history.

“Screening has been recommended above 50-years-old, but with the increased number of younger people being diagnosed health professionals recommend as early as 45, 40 if you have a family history or 10 years before the age of family members diagnosed,” added Dr. Thompson.

Lewis hopes that Boseman’s battle with cancer will be a wake-up call for black men to attend check-ups with their doctor.

"People in watching him, they embraced even more of their heritage, their ancestry and just who they were, just from who he was," said Lewis. "Just him being that black man and having that happen, I hope that we will feel motivated to not lose any more legendary men like himself, for something that we can take are of."

Lewis said NAACP Health is organizing a health fair for the black community in light of Boseman’s passing. The event will put an emphasis on colonoscopy screenings.