Mr. Boseman learned in 2016 that he had Stage 3 colon cancer, according to an Instagram post announcing his death. Dr. Mendelsohn said that patients with Stage 3 “have an approximate 60 percent to 80 percent chance of cure,” depending on a number of factors, including whether the cancer is responsive to chemotherapy.
Are there racial disparities in the risk of colon cancer?
Yes. According to the recent American Cancer Society report, rates of colorectal cancer are higher among Black people. From 2012 to 2016, the rate of new cases in non-Hispanic Black people was 45.7 per 100,000, about 20 percent higher than the rate among non-Hispanic whites and 50 percent higher than the rate among Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Alaska Natives had the highest rate: 89 per 100,000.
Ms. Siegel also said that at any age, “African-Americans are 40 percent more likely to die from colorectal cancer. It’s because of later-stage diagnosis, it’s because of systemic racism and all that this population has been dealing with for hundreds of years.”
What symptoms should prompt someone to see a doctor for possible colon cancer?
Common symptoms include bloody stool or bleeding from the rectum, doctors say. Other symptoms can include constipation or diarrhea, a change in bowel habits, dark sticky feces, feeling anemic, abdominal pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting or unexplained weight loss.
“If you feel something, you have to say something,” Dr. Salem said. “Don’t put it off because you’re busy or because you’re a young person or because you have too much on your plate.”
Are younger people less likely to receive a diagnosis early, and are they less likely to discuss their disease?
Unfortunately, yes. The average time from symptoms to diagnosis for people under 50 is 271 days, Dr. Siegel said, compared with 29 days for people 50 and older.
“Both doctors and these young folks are not thinking they have cancer,” she said. “Part of that is screening, but it’s not all screening. Young patients have symptoms, sometimes for years. For one thing, they’re much less likely to have health insurance than older people, and so they have less money. And they’re thinking, ‘I’m a 30-year-old, what could be wrong with me — it’s going to go away.’”