Myths & Facts
- Myth: Colorectal cancer is a man’s disease.
Truth: Colorectal cancer affects both men and women equally.
- Myth: I don’t have any symptoms so I must not have colorectal cancer.
Truth: One of the most widely held misconception is that symptoms will be evident. More than half of people diagnosed have no symptoms. Symptoms such as a change in stools, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, anemia or constant tiredness can all signal colon cancer. Once the symptoms start to develop it may be a sign of more advanced disease.
- Myth: Once diagnosed, it is too late to do anything.
Truth: Colorectal cancer is preventable and highly treatable when caught at an early stage. People diagnosed at early stages have a very high percentage of curing and surviving. Therefore, it makes good sense to get screened.
- Myth: You don’t need to get screened if there is no family history of the disease.
Truth: If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to star tscreening before age 50. Consult your MD about screening options best for you. Most people with colorectal cancer don’t have a family member with the disease. Only 10-20% of people that have colorectal cancer have a family member afflicted.
- Myth: Colonoscopy is the only way to screen for colorectal cancer.
Truth: There are several screening options for colorectal cancer, including fecal occult blood text (FOBT), fecal imuno-chemical test (FIT), sigmoidoscopy and the double-contrast barium enema.
- Myth: Colonoscopy is unpleasant, uncomfortable and difficult to prepare for.
Truth: Preparing for colonoscopy involves cleaning the colon with the help of prescription and over the counter medicine. Typically, they must be consumed a day or 2 before the procedure. During the actual procedure patients are sedated to eliminate discomfort. The procedure itself takes between 15-20 minutes.
- Myth: My friend had a colonoscopy, so should I get one too?
Truth: Colonoscopy screening is recommended for men and women beginning at age 50, unless other risk factors exist. If you are younger than 50 but have other risk factors, such as a family history, obesity, smoking, ulcerative colitis or Chrohn’s disease, speak to your doctor about your screening needs.
- Myth: A polyp means I have cancer.
Truth: Polyps are benign growths that if left unchecked have the potential to develop into cancer. Polyps can be easily removed during a colonoscopy with the colonoscope. By removing the polyp at an early stage, it is prevented from becoming cancerous.
- Myth: If I have colorectal cancer, it means I am dying.
Truth: When colorectal cancer is caught early it has an over 90% survival rate. That’s why screening is so important. Once colorectal cancer spreads to a distant organ (metastases), the survival rate is dramatically reduced, but with new treatments and medications the chances of survival are increasing.
- Myth: After I have colon surgery I will need a colostomy bag.
Truth: Surgical techniques have improved so that the cancer can be effectively removed without the need, in most cases, for a colostomy. A colostomy is where surgeons create an artificial external method to collect excrement.
- Myth: Physical activity is good only for the heart.
Truth: Physical activity is associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Even moderate physical activity can be beneficial.
- Myth: What I consume won’t affect my chances of getting colorectal cancer.
Truth: Fruit, vegetables, and fiber are associated with lowered risk of colorectal cancer. There is some evidence of an association between colorectal cancer and red meat. Smoking and alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Aspirin and vitamin D are associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.