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Chadwick Boseman's Death Highlights How Colon Cancer Disproportionately Affects Black Men

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The sudden death of "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman shocked and devastated fans over the weekend.

The 43-year-old actor died Friday of colon cancer, the third most deadly cancer among men and women in the U.S. The American Cancer Society estimates 53,200 people will die from colon cancer in 2020.

2019 American Music Awards - Press Room
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 24: Chadwick Boseman poses in the press room during the 2019 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for dcp)

"This is the first office day that we've had since his passing and I've had people bring it up and ask questions," said Dr. James McCormick, the chief of colon and rectal surgery for Allegheny Health Network.

A common question circulating following the actor's death is when people should be tested. The original screening age was 50, according to Dr. McCormick.

As studies show colorectal cancer patients are getting younger, McCormick told KDKA that patients should now be screened at 45.

"If you have any symptoms, bleeding or change in bowel habits at any age — you have to get right in and get rested," said McCormick.

There are less invasive testing options other than the colonoscopy.

"There's something called a FIT test and a cologuard test, which are stool studies," said Dr. McCormick.

Who should be screened? Experts say risk factors include obesity, bad gut health, poor diet and genetics.

Dr. McCormick told KDKA that the Black community, specifically young Black men, are severely impacted by the disease.

"Probably a two to three, depending on what study you read, times increase from non-Blacks," the doctor said.

Dr. McCormick also told KDKA that people seeking exams below the screening age can sometimes face issues with insurance companies, resulting in the financial burden of the screening. According to Dr. McCormick, mobile cancer screening provided by Allegheny Health Network will resume next month.

Patients can expect monthly events at community centers in Braddock, Hill District and Homestead. These will be advertised through those community centers. There are also plans for a mobile unit in the first quarter of 2021.

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