BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Actor Chadwick Boseman’s death at age 43 shocked fans and friends across America. He privately battled colon cancer for 4 years.
"We have a huge here epidemic and I would say you know that Chad's passing hopefully will bring much-needed attention to this cause," said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
Sapienza knows what it's like to lose a loved one to colorectal cancer. His mother passed away in 2009 at age 59, 3 years after a stage 4 diagnosis.
"Since my mom died, this kind of attention to this is diseased has never happened and it's a second leading cause of cancer-related deaths and as unfortunate as it is that he passed, this hopefully will save a lot of lives," said Sapienza.
That is Sapienza’s goal as he CEO of the DC-based Colorectal Cancer Alliance. He wants to raise awareness that the disease disproportionately affects black and brown communities and that young-onset colorectal cancer is on the rise.
"It takes on average two to three to four doctors that they see before they get diagnosed with colorectal cancer so what does that mean? It means they're diagnosed at a later stage and it's potentially more deadly," said Sapienza.
He said a lot people just aren’t getting screened for colorectal cancer and that needs to change.
"The screening rate unfortunately is just around 60%. We have lots of people in this country that are not getting screened for colorectal cancer, especially those who are under the age of 50," said Sapienza.
The recommended screening age is 45 or 10 years prior to any relatives diagnosis.
"If your mom, your dad, your grandfather, etcetera was diagnosed at the age of 40, you should be getting screened at 30 or I think more importantly for those young-onset patients like Chad, if you have blood in your stool, if you have dark bowel habits, if you have cramping, if you have night sweats, etcetera, make sure you are your own advocate," said Sapienza.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, there are several actions you can take to lower your risk for colorectal cancer.
- Excess body fat is one of the strongest factors that increases risk of colorectal cancer.
- Eating whole grains and foods containing fiber lower risk.
- Consuming processed meats and high amounts of red meat is a cause of colorectal cancer.
- Drinking 2 or more alcoholic drinks daily is a cause of this cancer.
- Daily moderate physical activity reduces the risk.