In an emotional speech at this year’s NAACP Image Awards, Simone Boseman, the wife of the late Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman, made an appeal for Black people to be aware of the symptoms of colon cancer and to go for regular screening when invited.

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Speaking at the virtual 52nd NAACP Image Awards ceremony on 28 March, to accept her husband’s award for winning in the Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture award for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the visibly distraught Simone Boseman took the opportunity to highlight the disturbing stats of colon cancer and the importance of knowing the symptoms to look out for.

She said: “20% of Black people in America are more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer and 40% are more likely to die from it.”

Simone added: “The age for routinely screening has recently been lowered to 45 years [in the US]. So, if you are 45 of years or older, please get screened. Don’t put if off any longer. Please get screened.”

The death of the young and outwardly fit Hollywood actor Chadwick Boseman shocked the world and contradicted the widely held belief that colon cancer is a disease that affects the older population.

“…from this month (April), the NHS in England and Scotland has lowered the bowel screening age to people over the age of 50…”

According to research, Colorectal cancer [aka colon cancer] was the third most common cancer among men and women in England, accounting for 12% of all new cases in 2016.

The paper also alluded to the fact that “incidence rates have increased rapidly among young adults (aged 20–39 years)” with changes in the prevalence of obesity and other risk factors currently being looked into as a possible cause.

This surge in younger people being diagnosed with colon cancer is problematic as previously, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the age for invitations to screenings was 60. However, from this month (April), the NHS in England and Scotland has lowered the bowel screening age to people over the age of 50 and every two years thereafter, according to Bowel Cancer UK. Still trailing behind the US where it has been reduced to 45 years old, but progress nonetheless.

“This disease is beatable if you catch it in its early stages,” Simone said. “So, you don’t have any time to waste even if you don’t have any family history. Even if you think that nothing is wrong, and if you are younger than 45, please be proactive about your health. Know the signs and know your body. Listen to your body.”

We have previously written about how to spot the symptoms of colon cancer. According to Dr. Zoe Williams, colon cancer is not easily detectable because it does not cause symptoms right away.

“This disease is beatable if you catch it in its early stages,”

When symptoms appear, they are quite similar to symptoms caused by other infections like irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, infection, and inflammatory bowel disease. Hence it becomes challenging to pick out colon cancer as the cause of symptoms without screening.

Some of the symptoms associated with colon cancer include:

  1. Changes in bowel habits include narrowing the stool, diarrhea, constipation, and a stool that lasts for more than a few days.
  2. A feeling that you need to move your bowels that does not get relived
  3. Blood in the stool that makes it appear black or dark brown
  4. Rectal bleeding with bright red blood.
  5. Unexplained loss of weight
  6. Fatigue and weakness

In many instances, people who have these symptoms do not always have cancer. However, it is important to talk to your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms and rule out colon cancer. Early detection of the disease is important so that it can be found and treated. This is why regular screening for the disease is vital.

We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to avoid having to fight colon cancer, or any other cancer at a young age. Be watchful for symptoms and if you’re not sure, speak to your GP in the first instance.

As Simone said: “You are so needed, and you are so loved. Take your own health into your own hands.”

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