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Physicians Recommend Greater Colon Cancer Risk Assessment

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With the death of actor Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer, gastroenterologists are recommending people seriously evaluate their risks of the disease.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis for both men and women in the United States. It’s usually screened via a colonoscopy beginning at age 50. Dr. Sumeet Tewani is a physician with Rockford Gastroenterology Associates. He said certain symptoms and risk factors can lead physicians to recommend an earlier screening.

"For patients as young as Chadwick Boseman was, he was I think about 38 when he was diagnosed," he said. "That really means that he probably had some symptoms that led to detection of a disease. So it’s important to pay attention for symptoms that could indicate underlying digestive disease."

Such symptoms can include changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation, blood in the stool, and unintentional weight loss. Symptoms and a family history of colon cancer can prompt a test much earlier.  Tewani said doctors recommend African-Americans get screened at age 45 even if they don’t have prior symptoms, due to a greater incidence of the disease in that group.