Doctors' Notes

Terrence Howard Urges Colon Cancer Screenings

Terrence Howard shares why he believes colon cancer screening could have saved his mother's life. Find out how to decrease your risk for colon cancer.

Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via  We promise to keep it anonymous. 

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.  However, close to 90 percent of colon cancer diagnoses and more than 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be avoided with regular screenings.

Actor Terrence Howard lost his mother to colon cancer in 2008 and has since teamed up with the Colon Cancer Alliance to spread the importance of screenings in the following PSA:

The sad truth is that colon cancer death rates are higher in our community than in any other ethnic groups.  This is in part because the diagnosis is typically made at more advanced stages when cure rates are the lowest.  When detected early, colon cancer has an 84 percent survival rate.  Unfortunately, in African Americans only 33 percent of colon cancers are diagnosed at these early, curable stages.

Colon cancer is one of the most detectable and treatable forms of cancer.  Here are some quick facts you need to know about colon cancer screening to decrease your risk:

Earlier is better. Standard screening for most groups begins at age 50.  However, due to the increasing diagnosis of colon cancer at ages much younger than 50 years in the African American community, the American College of Gastroenterology now recommends screening at age 45 for African Americans.

Know your history. There are some risk factors which require more frequent screening or screening beginning at an even earlier age.  These include: 1) a personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps; and/or 2) a history of inflammatory bowel disease, i.e. Crohn’s disease, or Ulcerative Colitis. If you are in these high risk groups, contact your doctor regarding an appropriate screening timeline for you.

Do your part. There are some lifestyle factors which may also contribute to a higher risk of developing colon cancer. These include: 1) lack of regular exercise; 2) low fiber, high-fat diet; 3) being overweight; 4) alcohol use, and 5) tobacco use.  These are definitely factors that we can change.  We need to do our part to make sure we are living the healthiest lifestyle possible.

Know the symptoms. If you have ever or are currently experiencing any of these symptoms notify your doctor for a proper medical evaluation.

(1)   Blood in the stool

(2)   Sudden change in bowel habits

(3)   Stools that have changed shape or are narrower than usual

(4)   Unexplained weight loss

(5)   Feeling an urge to have a bowel movement, when there is no need

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!


About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!