Fact vs. Myth

Colon Cancer Myths vs. Reality

Highlights

  • Colon cancer myths can be dangerous.
  • Colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable.
  • Early detection gives you a 91 percent chance of survival.
  • You can reduce your colon cancer risk factors by changing your diet and lifestyle.
  • At-home colorectal screening is as effective as colonoscopy. 

Colon cancer myths and misunderstandings may prevent patients from seeking early, lifesaving help. 

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the U.S., but it’s second only to lung cancer in the number of deaths it causes. Fortunately, there has been a steady decrease in the number of colon cancer diagnoses and deaths since 1992. Colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable; regular screening can be lifesaving. 

Colon Cancer Myths Are Dangerous

If you develop colon cancer and doctors notice it early, you may fully recover with surgery alone. Other treatment options are also available. The problem is that many of us have incorrect beliefs about this disease, which may prevent us from getting screened as early and frequently as doctors recommend. 

If doctors detect your colorectal cancer early, you have a 91 percent chance of survival. Unfortunately, only 37 percent of colon cancer cases come to light at an early stage. Since this disease often has no symptoms, it may occur in people with no risk factors or family history. 

Dispelling the myths about colon cancer will help you understand how regular screening can protect you and your loved ones.

Myth #1: Colorectal Cancer Is Fatal

Many people think that cancer is a fatal disease. While colorectal cancer is one of the most frequent types of cancer, it is not the most dangerous. When discovered in time, doctors can successfully treat 9 patients out of 10. That outcome is encouraging. 

Even if cancer spreads to surrounding tissues, the five-year survival rate is 72 percent. That’s far from being fatal. 

Unfortunately, late-stage colorectal cancer is deadlier. Only 15 percent of late-stage colon cancer sufferers survive it. Late discovery gives the disease time to spread to other body parts. 

With regular colorectal screening, you can ensure that any problems are discovered early. 

Myth #2: You Can’t Do Anything About Getting Colon Cancer

Although family history can predict colorectal cancer, people with no family history of the disease may develop it as well. 

You cannot eliminate your colorectal cancer risk. Everyone with a colon is at risk to some degree. You can, however, reduce the likelihood of developing the disease by changing your diet and lifestyle. 

Try to eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Avoid red meat and fatty or processed foods, and get regular exercise.

Plant-based food
Foods rich in fiber support colon health.

Regular consumption of red meat is a significant colorectal cancer risk factor. Red meat generates cancer-causing substances when exposed to hot surfaces or open flame. 

Myth #3: Screening Is Unnecessary for Those Without Symptoms

Of the colorectal cancer myths, this one may be the most dangerous. Colorectal cancer is often symptomless. Around 11 percent of diagnosed cases are discovered through routine screening in people with no symptoms. 

You can’t rely on symptoms to alert you that something may be wrong in your colon. 

The CDC recommends that you start screening for colorectal cancer at age 45. If you have several risk factors, like a family history of colon cancer, polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease, consider starting earlier. If you’re low-risk and squeamish about colonoscopy, at-home colorectal screening is an easy, affordable, and private way to screen for the disease without going to a clinic. 

Myth #4: You Should Only Screen for Colon Cancer if Your Doctor Brings It Up

This is another dangerous colon cancer myth, as it discourages potentially life-saving action. Your doctor may not remember to remind you of colorectal cancer screening. 

Also, you can’t expect your doctor to know about any family history of cancer or polyps. Take the initiative and ask your doctor about colon cancer screening. Share information and be open. 

Myth #5: Colonoscopy Is Your Only Screening Option

Image of a colonoscope inside a colon
A colonoscopy can be intimidating.

People tend to associate colon cancer screening with colonoscopy, but those are not necessarily the same thing. Colonoscopy is a procedure involving the insertion of a tube through your rectum, which many people consider uncomfortable or embarrassing. 

A colonoscopy allows doctors to look for signs of polyps (which can be removed during the procedure) or cancerous growths in your colon. They can also take tissue samples for analysis. 

Research suggests, however, that at-home fecal immunochemical tests (FITs) may be nearly as good at detecting colorectal cancer as a colonoscopy. And these tests only require a stool sample you can get in the comfort of your bathroom. 

You can order an at-home colorectal cancer screening test and use it to collect and mail in your specimen. The lab checks for traces of blood in your feces. If your test is positive, you will get a free consultation with a doctor, who will help you decide whether you should have a colonoscopy to confirm the result. 

Myth #6: Colonoscopy Hurts

Colonoscopy may be uncomfortable, but it does not hurt. During the procedure, the doctor inserts the tube through your rectum, looking at the lining of your colon through a camera. Colonoscopy patients receive conscious sedation to minimize their discomfort. 

The most uncomfortable part of the procedure is the preparation of the colon the day before, because you will have to ingest only clear liquids and take a laxative to clean your colon. 

Myth #7: Having a Colon Polyp Means You Have Cancer

Polyps are what doctors call pre-cancerous growths that are not cancer but may turn cancerous in time. To prevent colon cancer, your doctor may remove your polyps. 

Colon with polyps inside
Colon polyps don’t mean cancer, but they are not good news

The presence of polyps in your colon increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer. 

Myth #8: Health Plans Don’t Cover Colorectal Cancer Screening

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer testing. The Affordable Care Act requires Medicare and private insurers to cover all costs of colorectal screening. The law defines different screening methods and sets conditions for their coverage. 

Talk to Your Doctor About Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colon cancer myths spread disinformation about a serious disease. They can diminish your chances of survival and limit your treatment options. Talk to your doctor about your colon cancer risk if you believe you may be likely to develop the disease. 

At-home colorectal screening is a cost-effective and comfortable way to test for colon cancer. For people with a low risk of colorectal cancer, a FIT test once a year is an effective way to detect the disease. 

eDrugstore Can Help

We carry at-home FIT colorectal screening tests that work with stool samples. Order a test, follow the instructions to collect a stool sample, and mail in your specimen. Shipping is free. 

You will receive your results in two to five days, and we offer a free doctor consultation for positive results. 

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