On August 28, Chadwick Boseman passed away after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was only 43. Some of his greatest movies – including “42”, “Marshall”, and the billion-dollar grossing hit “Black Panther”, about the Marvel Comics superhero – were sometimes filmed during and between multiple surgeries and chemotherapy sessions.
His death has returned attention to a disease with rising numbers of cases and fatalities in the last several years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Even more alarming, researchers found that the age of diagnosis is decreasing. 72 was the average age patients were diagnosed with colorectal cancer from 1989 until the early 2000s. That age had dropped to 66 by 2016.
One of the most difficult challenges in the fight against colon cancer is that up to a quarter of newly diagnosed patients learn of their disease only after it has spread to other organs. At that point, chemotherapy is the primary therapy, with surgery also necessary. In Boseman’s case, he was initially diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, meaning it had already grown through his intestinal wall. It eventually progressed to stage 4, indicating the malignancy had spread beyond his digestive tract.
To take a more proactive fight against colorectal cancer, getting screened is essential. Experts say that if caught early enough, this type of cancer has an over 90 percent 5-year survival rate. However, if caught after spreading to other organs, that rate drops dramatically, to about 14 percent.
According to the National Cancer Institute, African Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at a younger age and to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed. Findings suggest that colorectal cancer rates are roughly 20 percent higher in African Americans than non-Hispanic whites, and with an almost 40 percent higher rate of death. Because of that, African Americans should start screening for colorectal cancer earlier, at age 45 instead of 50.
The rise in obesity is also believed to be linked to the rise in cases of colorectal cancer. So living a healthy lifestyle including exercise and a good diet is more important than ever.
If it can happen to someone as young, healthy, and successful as Boseman, it can happen to anyone. Being prepared is important. Sometimes advanced treatments aren’t available locally. The cost of travel, care, and other out-of-pocket expenses can be significant. A Cancer Policy from ASBA can provide you a single lump sum payment upon initial diagnosis of internal cancer or malignant melanoma. Learn more about Cancer Insurance available to you through ASBA.