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Actor Chadwick Boseman's death raises awareness of colon cancer

JFK Medical Center doctor lays out common symptoms
Amanda DeRoxtra
Posted at 4:59 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 17:59:17-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The death of "Black Panther" actor Chadwick Boseman is helping to raise awareness of colon cancer and how it can affect people at any age.

Amanda DeRoxtra was diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer three years ago at the age of 32. She received the diagnosis after a colonoscopy.

"Things changed fairly quickly. Within 45 minutes, people were coming in saying we scheduled you a chemotherapy appointment for next week, and we think it's cancer," DeRoxtra said.

She's an advocate for early cancer detection.

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Boseman's death reminded her to stay on her mission.

"He was such an icon of our era. He changed so many dynamics of what I think is important, and cancer took him down, and that broke me," DeRoxtra said.

Dr. Heidi Bahna is a colorectal surgeon at JFK Medical Center.

"Many times when I see young patients that have a diagnosis of colon cancer, they have symptoms for a long time, but even their physicians may have said you are so young you have no family history," Bahna said.

Dr. Heidi Bahna
Dr. Heidi Bahna, a colorectal surgeon at JFK Medical Center, says the risk factors of developing colon cancer is similar to other cancers like smoking and an unhealthy diet.

Though experts say everyone should have a colonoscopy starting at age 45, Bahna said don't ignore any symptoms.

"Common symptoms once you have developed the colon cancer are rectal bleeding, change in stool habits, late-stage symptoms, abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss and anemia," Bahna said.

RELATED: Boseman's casts light on growing rates of colon cancer in young people

She urges everyone to speak up about their health.

"Being very proactive about your own health and saying, you know, 'I'm really having symptoms. I really want to get this checked.' Even if you are below the age of screening," Bahna said.

She said some people are more at risk than others.

"Risk factors for developing colorectal cancer are some of the risk factors for developing many cancers, including smoking, increased alcohol intake, an unhealthy diet."

DeRoxtra reflected on the death of Boseman.

"I think it's important that people advocate for their health so that we don't lose the everyday superheroes that we have in our lives," DeRoxtra said.