Passing of an Icon and Preventing Repeat Cases: How Chadwick Boseman’s Death can Impact Colon Cancer Survival

By Joshua Beltran, Research Assistant, Center for Health Equity Engagement Education and Research

Over this past weekend I, along with millions of people around the world, learned of the tragic passing of actor Chadwick Boseman at the age of 43. He was perhaps best known for playing culturally iconic roles of T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther, Jackie Robinson in 42, and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall. I know I am not alone in being impacted by this loss and saddened. Boseman’s passing is due to succumbing to a four-year battle with colon cancer, which he had been diagnosed with at Stage III in 2016 and had recently worsened into Stage IV.

Chadwick Boseman, passed away on August 28, 2020 after a 4 year battle with colon cancer. He was only 43.

His passing is compounded by the fact that he was not alone in his struggle against this form of cancer. Upon learning of his death, I additionally discovered that the colon cancer he suffered from disproportionately affects many members of the Black community. According to this study “African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer (CRC) of any ethnic group in the United States.” In this separate article I learned that these rates/stats are due to a few contributing factors, such as genetics, screening availability, and when screenings are performed. The screening factor is a major point I want to focus on. I have always been a proponent of preventative care, it’s a major reason why I am in my current field of work. Screening and testing are vital forms of preventative care, if availability to these services is in question this automatically leads to health disparities. By not having health services being available to members of a community health outcomes are impacted. As I previously mentioned, Mr. Boseman was diagnosed at stage III which is already a severe stage. The disheartening fact of the matter is that he’s not the only one to fall victim to this scenario. Dr. Fola May, assistant professor of medicine at UCLA and a researcher at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, explained in an interview with KCRW that “African-Americans are more likely to get colon cancer, they’re more likely to have an advanced stage of disease when they’re diagnosed with colon cancer, they’re more likely to die from colon cancer and they have shorter survival after diagnosis with colon cancer.” These statements should definitely be taken lightly.

As fans around the world mourn the loss a talent gone too soon it’s all the more reason to prevent repeat cases if possible. I encourage everyone to take into consideration preventive care measures if available. Obviously, this means that health care providers need to provide more available forms of preventive care in the first place.