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Local doctor discusses importance of early intervention for colon cancer

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The disease has a disproportionate effect on the Black community, men specifically

(WYTV) – The death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman at the age of 43 shocked Hollywood and his fans around the world. It’s now spreading light on the disease he died from: colorectal, or colon, cancer.

It’s the phrase no one ever wants to hear, “You have cancer.”

“You’re lifetime risk factor generally is about 4%,” said Dr. Derek Ornelas, from Mercy Health.

Colon cancer may not be talked about as much as others, but it’s the third most common cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States.

It disproportionately affects African-Americans, men specifically.

“Whether it’s just genetics or other environmental risk factors, we don’t really have a great idea of why… they do have a higher risk of mortality from it and they are younger when they get diagnosed, like we saw with Chadwick Boseman recently,” Dr. Ornelas said.

Boseman’s death reignites the conversation around colon cancer. The actor had been privately battling the disease for the last four years.

Many now wonder how colon cancer could affect someone so young and seemingly fit.

“There are no symptoms. Early-stage colon cancer, there’s no evidence of other issues until they start becoming more aggressive or more advanced,” Dr. Ornelas said.

According to Mercy Health statistics from 2019, 5% of colorectal cancer cases came from the local Black community, much lower than the national average.

“There’s all kinds of things that play into that, whether they have adequate access to health, adequate screenings,” Dr. Ornelas said.

The CDC recommends screening for colon cancer begin at age 50, while the American Cancer Society now suggests starting at 45.

“There are different screening options that are available — the gold standard still remains to be a colonoscopy. It has the best sensitivity, best specificity for finding not only early cancers or advanced cancers but also small polyps that do have that pre-cancer potential,” Dr. Ornelas said.

The guidelines stress screenings must be repeated regularly to be effective. You and your doctor will be able to choose the one that’s right for you.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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