JOPLIN, Mo. — If you think colon cancer only strikes the elderly and middle aged, you’re wrong.
The recent death of actor Chadwick Boseman is a good example. He was just 43 when he passed away from the illness.
Many of us where shocked to learn that a 43 year old man died of colon cancer. But Gastroenterologist Dr. Larry Deffenbaugh says he’s seen the potentially deadly disease develop in people much younger.
Dr. Larry Deffenbaugh, Gastroenterologist, said, “And the youngest I’ve seen in a male was age 20, youngest in a female was age 23, unfortunately because of their age, often times they present with advanced disease because no one thinks that this individual at this age could possibly have a malignancy.”
Deffenbaugh says the 20 year old patient is African American.
He says it takes an average of about 10 years for abnormal cells in the colon to become a polyp and eventually turn cancerous, which means Boseman could have been in his early thirties when his disease started.
At one time it was suggested that everyone get their first colonoscopy at age 50, now they want African American males to get their’s at age 45.
A colonoscopy is a procedure where doctors are able to use a probe with a miniature camera on the end to examine the inside of the large intestine, the device can also cut out polyps if they are seen by the surgeon.
“Those polyps are then suctioned out and removed and then that particular polyp is sent for pathological evaluation, the colon can actually make 5 types and we’re really only concerned about three of those 5, we consider those three the be pre-malignant.”
Deffenbaugh says colon cancer can also run in families and that children of cancer patients should be checked for the disease as an earlier age than 50.