Colon-Cancer Q&A: What to Know – Wall Street Journal

The death of actor and “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman at 43 years old shines a spotlight on the risk of colon cancer, especially “young onset” colorectal cancer which is on the rise among people under the age of 50. Here are a few things to know about the disease.

What is colon cancer, and what are the symptoms?

Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, starts in the colon in the digestive system and tends to grow slowly over many years. It usually begins as a growth of tissue called a polyp, and removing the polyp early might prevent the cancer.

The cancer might not cause symptoms at the beginning, but symptoms can include a change in bowel movements, bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue and unintended weight loss.

How common is colorectal cancer? How deadly is it?

Colorectal cancer is the fourth-most-common type of cancer, after breast, lung and prostate cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. There will be an estimated 147,950 new cases in 2020 and 53,200 estimated deaths, which is 8.8% of all cancer-related deaths.

The cancer is more prevalent in men than women and is more prevalent among Black Americans than other ethnicities, said Kimmie Ng, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.