AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The death of actor Chadwick Boseman by colon cancer took the nation by surprise. He was 43 years old. Dr. Douglas Benson is a colon and rectal surgeon for HealthOne in Denver.
Benson says anyone is at risk for the disease regardless of age, especially if you have a family history of it.
“In the last 25 years we’ve seen a 50% increase in incidents and death of patients in their 30s and 40s being diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer,” he said.
However, he says it is treatable and in some cases even curable. Especially if you catch it early.
“Survival outcomes all increase the earlier you diagnose the disease,” Benson told CBS4’s Michael Abeyta.
He says that’s why the American Cancer Society is now recommending colonoscopies for patients as young as 45. If you are younger than that, he says insurance likely won’t cover the procedure unless you have symptoms like blood in your stool.
“It is something that you should not ignore. There’s abdominal pain. There’s just any kind of change in the bowel habits that’s outside your normal, anything that is progressive and just not getting better,” said Benson.
He says if you do have symptoms you should forget the stigma that surrounds talking about the colon and rectum and talk to your doctor.
“Don’t be shy about it. Physicians are not at all offended. They have no problem talking about this with any of their patients.”
He says people shouldn’t feel scared that they might get sick, but instead, be aware of your colon and rectal health.
“Don’t ignore symptoms, know your family history. It is something that is on the rise.”