Dispelling the Myths of Colon Cancer

The good news is that caught early, colon cancer survival rates are as high as 92%. The bad news is those desirable statistics may only apply to those who catch their cancer while it’s still in the first-stage.

When colon cancer is caught too late, the story can become all-too-common: Someone who patient did, indeed, have symptoms that raised a red flag, but he or she didn’t think they would have cancer because….

7 Common Myths About Colon Cancer – Don’t Believe ‘Em

…they bought into one or more colon cancer myths. As a result, the patient waited too long to get checked and the cancer was caught later than it would have been otherwise.

Here are 7 of the most common myths that could prevent you from seeking recommended screenings if you buy into them:

1) Only Older People Get Colon Cancer: False

While it’s true your risk of developing colon cancer increases with age – particularly after age 50 – it’s also true that plenty of younger people have been diagnosed with colon cancer. Watch 22-year old Lauren’s story and be inspired to pay attention to your body and ignore the myth that your young age means your not at risk for colon cancer.

Lauren had fresh blood in her stool and stereotypical lethargy that accompanies colon cancer. When a doctor’s prescription didn’t work, her forward-thinking physician sent her to a colon and rectal specialist where she was officially diagnosed and treated.

2) Colon Cancer Is a Death Sentence: False

This is absolutely not true, as our intro statistic indicates. However, it is true that the sooner you catch colon cancer – or any other type of cancer – the higher your chances of survival, and the less-invasive your treatment method or methods may be.

The simple act of observing your colonoscopy screenings will verify your colon is healthy or that any signs of abnormal cells or polyps are removed promptly, before they become cancerous. Colonoscopies are recommended every five-years fro adults 50-year old or older, unless your doctor recommends otherwise based on family history and/or your personal risk factors.

3) If You’re Diagnosed with Colon Cancer, It Has Probably Spread Elsewhere: False

Many people feel that a colon cancer diagnosis also means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized). This is not the case. The large majority of patients are treated and live normal, healthy lives – without any “cancer spread” at all. Again, early detection is key.

That being said, if a tumor or cancerous lesion is discovered, we’ll due further diagnostic checks to explore whether there is cancer elsewhere so treatment is targeted accordingly.

4) Colonoscopies Are the Only Way to Detect Colon Cancer: False

While colonoscopies are considered the best way to detect cancer, your general physician may recommend less-invasive screening tools.

One of the most common, particularly for those who have no family history of colon cancer and/or who lead healthy lifestyles is a fecal immunochemical test (FIT). Your doctor will provide a test kit that captures fecal matter. You send the sample into the lab and results typically take a week or so. Computer tomographic colonography – sometimes called a “virtual colonoscopy” is another way to get an image of soft tissue – looking for signs of tumors or polyps.

5) Women Don’t Have to Worry about Colon Cancer: False

It’s true that men have the higher risk for colon cancer. But, just as women are now more prone to heart disease, women are also getting colon cancer at increased rates. This is most likely due to lifestyle choices and the busier, higher-stress lives we lead. In fact, after breast and lung cancer, colon cancer is the third-leading type of cancer among women.

As far as the medical experts, American Cancer Society and we colon and rectal specialists are concerned – everyone 50-years and older should be screened for colon cancer at least every five- to 10-years.

preventing colon cancer6) You Can’t Prevent Colon Cancer: False

Family history plays a notable role in colon cancer risk. After that, diet and lifestyle choices are the next largest risk factors. You can actively prevent colon cancer by:

  • Maintaining a healthy BMI
  • Leading an active lifestyle
  • Eating at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day – and choose whole-grain products with high-fiber content
  • Limiting daily intake of red meat and processed meats
  • Avoiding tobacco products. Period.
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation

7) You Don’t Need a Colonoscopy if You Don’t Have Symptoms: False

Colonoscopies are a screening tool first, and a diagnostic and treatment tool second. The whole point of a colonoscopy is to catch abnormal and/or cancerous cells, lesions, tumors or polyps before they cause serious problems and progress. If you skip them before you have symptoms, it defeats the purpose of a colonoscopy altogether.

Don’t become a victim of colon cancer mythology.

Schedule your overdue colonoscopy screening with Richmond’s Colon Cancer Experts, the physicians at Colon & Rectal Specialists.