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Death of Chadwick Boseman spotlights rising number of young people with colon cancer

Rate of new cases in Black people also increasing

The death of Chadwick Boseman has put a new spotlight on the growing number of younger people being diagnosed with colon cancer.

The rate of new cases in Black people is also increasing. It’s about 20% higher than the rate among White people in recent years.

The battle Boseman fought off the screen is being waged every day in cancer centers around the nation and the world.

For Marvin Funches, of Detroit, it’s a battle that sounded all-too familiar, because he’s fighting it, too.

“They did a colonoscopy,” Funches said. “Come to find out, they said I had a bowel obstruction, with stage 2 colorectal cancer.”

Funches was just 42 years old when he was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago. Chemotherapy, radiation and a 16-hour surgery left him cancer-free, but lay May, the cancer returned.

“This time it was aggressive and it was advanced to stage 4 in my liver,” Funches said.

He’s undergoing treatment at DMC Sinai Grace Hospital. Looking back, he said he had warning signs.

“I would have diarrhea,” Funches said. “If it wasn’t diarrhea, it was constipation. I was having bowel issues.”

He was also losing weight. Funches urges everyone -- specifically young Black men -- to get any symptoms checked out right away.

“If you feel any change in your body, if you feel something is wrong, then go talk to your doctor,” Funches said. “I know a lot of men have issues about getting a colonoscopy. You just wake up thinking that nothing happened. It’s smooth. It’s not what you think it is, and it could save your life.”

Funches said he’s a prisoner of hope and continues to live a good life. He sees Boseman’s battle as a testament.

“Look how well he lived his life,” Funches said. “Look what he chose to do. So you can still do things. You can still be effective and still be the person that you are with cancer. It’s just your attitude. Your attitude can determine how far you can go. If you feel good and you have a positive outlook and a positive attitude, you’ll be better for it. It’ll help you through it.”

Funches is an example of why it’s so challenging to diagnose colon cancer early in younger patients. He got regular physicals, but he didn’t have a family history of cancer and was under age 45, so he wasn’t being screened yet.

Experts said it really comes down to symptoms, which younger people are less likely to report.

Doctors have several theories about why cases are rising in young people, but so far, they’re only theories.

Click here to take a Colorectal Cancer Quiz created by the DMC.


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