What can Chadwick Boseman teach us about Colon Cancer Awareness

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Dr. Michelle Murday, Program Director – Colon & Rectal Fellowship at St. Mark’s Hospital joins Nicea on ABC4 to talk about Colon Cancer Awareness.

This is especially timely in light of the untimely death of actor Chadwick Boseman, who died Aug. 28 of colon cancer at the age of 43.

According to Dr. Michelle Murday with St. Mark’s Hospital, 43 is young to get Colon Cancer. Colorectal cancer is usually seen in the 6th and 7th decades of life. but with that said, the rate of colorectal cancer among people younger than 50 has increased by about 2% annually in recent years. In 2020, it’s predicted that 12% of cases will be in people under 50.

Education and awareness are critical and having a conversation with your doctor is an important and personal thing, even though it can be difficult to talk about. We need to change that paradigm.  Colon Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S, 140k people get it in the U.S. every year – 50k die from it.

What’s the general rule of thumb on WHEN to be screened?  

  • The guideline used to be 50 and what most are familiar with, but ACS is now saying 45.
  • More than 90% of cases occur in people over 50.
  • According to the CDC, only 2/3 of adults in the US are up to date with colorectal cancer screening.

How key is early detection?

  • Critical. When colorectal cancer is caught in stage 1, survival chances are in the mid-90%, By stage 3, drops to 60-80%; at stage 4, chances drop to between 10 and 20%

Are there symptoms people can look for, or do you have to be screened?

  • Bleeding, black and tarry stool, changes in bowel habits, pencil-thin stool, unexplained abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss. 
  • By the time there are symptoms frequently colorectal cancer is already at a higher stage. Don’t wait for symptoms. Get checked.

What’s the process to get screened? Are there multiple options, or is it exclusively colonoscopy? A lot of people are intimidated at the prospect of a colonoscopy because it IS so personal.

  • Screening options include a fecal occult blood test, cologuard test, CT colonography or colonoscopy. 
  • Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard because it can REMOVE precancerous lesions and diagnose cancer if it is there.  If the fecal occult blood test, cologuard, or CT return with abnormalities, a colonoscopy would be required to follow that up.

Dr. Michelle Murday with St. Mark’s Hospital explains that the hesitation with COVID-19 is understandable but largely unfounded. The hospital is among the safest places to receive care. We’re taking every precaution imaginable. And while still serious, the COVID-19 volumes in Utah have not been what we’ve seen in other states and countries.

The other concern people had earlier in the pandemic was overwhelming the hospitals and healthcare system – that’s not an issue right now. People should seek the care they need so the problems don’t compound. 

If you have a colonoscopy scheduled, keep the appointment. If you are due for a screening, get screened – whether it’s with St. Mark’s Hospital or someone else. 

For more information you can visit the St. Mark’s Hospital website.

If you or a family member are experiencing an emergency, please dial 9-1-1.

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