Death of Chadwick Boseman showing need for better understanding of colon cancer

ATLANTA — The death of actor Chadwick Boseman is having an impact on the fight against colon cancer after it was revealed that he had been fighting the disease for the last four years.

Boseman had been receiving treatment for the cancer without anyone knowing.

Channel 2′s Lori Wilson spoke with a metro doctor who said new research could help doctors better understand why people with no family history are developing colon cancer.

When you look at men and women together, colon cancer is the cancer that leads to the second highest number of cancer deaths in the United States.

The question that has been baffling scientists is why since the 90s people are starting to develop colon cancer younger and younger.


Timothy Mitchell, 47, of Douglasville, says getting back on his Harley with his wife was his motivation for beating stage 3 colon cancer. he started a vlog called #beatcancerthenride -- documenting his journey hoping to help others.

“My wife and my motorcycle, those are my two vices,” Mitchell said.

Dr. Jennifer Christie is the clinical director of gastroenterology for Emory Clinic. She told Wilson that doctors are now taking a new research approach as they try to understand why colon cancer is popping up in younger and younger people.

“There’s so much that we need to know. We need to spend time and money to understand this better,” Christie said. “We’re looking at the gut microbiome, which is the gut floor that we all have, and how that may be triggering something to happen to start this whole cascade of events for colon cancers to develop.”

It’s research that will include specifically studying Black and brown populations, which have higher rates of colon cancer than others.

While it’s too late for Boseman who famously portrayed super heroes, real and imagined, it’s not too late to remind everyone to know your family history, the warning signs and symptoms, and to listen to your body.

[RELATED: Chadwick Boseman death: Know signs of colon cancer]

“You have to pay attention to it. It’s important to recognize it early and at least start having the conversation with your physician,” Mitchell said. “I was out of work for two years. So this man (Boseman) had it and did all this stuff. So, he really was a warrior.”

Doctors said many have put off screenings due to concerns about COVID-19.

They say reschedule that bloodwork or colonoscopy right away, don’t delay. When colon cancer is detected early, the survival rate is about 90%.