Natalie Desselle-Reid’s Death Highlights Importance of Screenings

By Pat Carragher - December 11, 2020

Actress Natalie Desselle-Reid known for her roles in "Madea's Big Happy Family," "B.A.P.S.," and "Def Jam's How to Be a Player" died from colon cancer Monday. She was 53. Desselle-Reid was reportedly diagnosed earlier this year and kept her illness out of the public light.

Her death occurred during the American Cancer Center’s ‘Cancer Screen Week,’ which runs from December 7-11. Dessell-Res is the second notable Black actor to die from colon cancer this year. “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman lost a four-year battle with the disease in August. He was 43.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women in the U.S.

Blacks are about 20% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 40% more likely to die from it.

Colon cancer screenings should begin at age 50 for individuals at average risk, though the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is considering a draft recommendation to lower the suggested screening age to 45.

“We know that screening decreases your chances of developing colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Jason Klapman, a gastroenterologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Colonoscopies allow us to find precancerous growths in the colon and remove them before they ever turn into cancer. That’s why screening is so important.”

Those with certain risk factors are encouraged to begin screenings sooner. Factors that warrant colon cancer testing include:

  • Being African American or Black
  • Having a personal or family history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Having certain inherited syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome or adenomatous polyposis 
  • Having inflammatory intestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

Symptoms of colon cancer may not appear right away, and when they do they can often mimic other health issues, such as hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis. If you notice any possible signs of colon cancer, it is important to contact your physician.

The five most common signs are:

  • A change in bowel habits — Diarrhea, constipation, rectal bleeding, a feeling that the bowel does not empty completely or a narrowing of the stool
  • A change in stool color — Bright red or very dark stools (which could indicate the presence of blood)
  • Gastrointestinal distress — Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, cramps or vomiting
  • Exhaustion — Overwhelming and unexplained feelings of fatigue or weakness
  • Weight loss — A decrease in fat, muscle mass or body fluid that is unrelated to diet or exercise

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