Get tested for colon cancer before it is too late!
That is the warning one local colon cancer survivor is issuing to Barbadians, especially in the wake of the recent passing of American actor Chadwick Boseman, who died recently after battling the disease for four years.
The Black Panther actor, who passed away last Friday August 28, was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and had undergone multiple surgeries and chemotherapy.
Graham Bannister, who was diagnosed with stage I of the illness, told Barbados TODAY that Boseman’s death should serve as a wake-up call to Barbadians.
“I don’t know what happened in the case of Chadwick Boseman, but because of his young age, that is what made me say it is time for us as men and women in Barbados to get serious about it and get the screening done early,” Bannister pleaded.
He pointed out that the disease is not only hereditary but there were a number of factors which could contribute to the illness which is known to affect black people more than other races. People who are obese, individuals who smoke, consume alcohol, eat a lot of fried food or have a low fibre diet are at risk, he said.
Boseman’s death at age 43, should be an indication to individuals that they should no longer wait until the recommended age 45 or 50 to get tested for the illness.
“So when must we start screening? I want to instill in the Bajan men in particular, that you must get tested. Don’t be afraid of the colonoscopy. It is not painful,” he said.
Adding that screening could be a costly undertaking at a private facility, Bannister said the consequences of having the disease and not knowing far outweighed that.
“I am not a doctor but I would say to get screening at the age of 35 or 40 the latest if you believe you are prone to colon cancer,” he recommended.
“If you don’t get the testing, like me – I waited until age 55 – you then end up with colon cancer. I ended up fortunately, if you can say that, with stage I. Mine was treated with surgery and I didn’t have to do chemo or radiation, just a series of follow up tests and a couple more colonoscopies after that to make sure everything was going well,” said Bannister, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2018.
Bannister, a Cancer Support Services member, said it was his intention to start a colon cancer foundation to help educate residents on the illness and provide financial and other support.
He also suggested that there was a need for a task force on colon cancer to do research and build a database.
According to the American Institute for Cancer research, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer globally and Barbados has the eighth highest rate per 100,000 among both sexes, and the sixth highest rate among men.
“I do believe if we set up a task force and we start to build a database with this information we will have a better understanding and be able to spread greater awareness of what we need to do to prevent this from happening to other persons,” he said.