Being the second most deadly cancer in the U.S., it’s disturbing to know that there are many widespread misconceptions about colon cancer. These wrong perceptions could keep people from accessing the preventative care and treatment they might need.
Colorectal cancer is a silent killer and it takes more than 50,000 lives every year. One key to avoiding it is to get screened regularly. Yet out of ignorance or fear of pain, many people shun colonoscopies and other life-saving screening procedures. New Hope Unlimited have gathered the facts to debunk popular myths about colon cancer. Use these to inform your loved ones as well.
Myth 1: Having no symptoms means you’re totally safe from it.
Tests for colorectal cancer saves lives as it detects abnormal cells that could potentially be life-threating cancer at a later stage. In 2015, one report showed that almost 50 percent fewer have died of colon cancer in recent years thanks to screening.
Nevertheless, many people believe that screening is only necessary once you start seeing symptoms, such as constant changes in bowel movements, bleeding from the rectum, unexpected weight loss, or belly pain.
Dr. Rachel Issaka, a gastroenterologist from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, says that this is not always the case. She explained that the disease could take years to advance without showing indications. By the time a patient starts noticing problems, cancer may have already progressed to the point where it’s a little too difficult to treat.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends adults in their 50s to start testing for colorectal cancer. Guidelines from the American Cancer Society add that those who have a family history of the condition should consider getting screened at earlier ages.
Myth 2: Only those older than 50 are at risk.
You must have already guessed where this misunderstanding came from. Since health guidelines suggest that screening should start when you turn 50, some assume that colon cancer simply does not happen in younger adults. Colorectal cancer physician-scientist Dr. William Grady says that colon cancer does, in fact, strike younger people. Cases used to be rare, but we are starting to see a “pretty dramatic” rise in the rate in this population.
According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute, people under 50 account for 11 percent of colon cancer diagnoses. This figure is nearly double what was in 1990. While it is unclear what factors contributed to this increase, Grady said that the changes in diet or kinds of bacteria living in our guts may have an impact.
Myth 3: Colonoscopy is painful.
Colonoscopy is the most common and most accurate colon cancer screening test in the U.S. In this procedure, the doctor slides a long, pliable fiber-optic tool into the rectum and intestines to check for precancerous polyps and remove any that are found.
Some people grimace just hearing that, but colonoscopy is actually not as bad as you might think. Dr. Issaka revealed that patients say that the most uncomfortable part is the preparation, which usually involves using an enema or taking a laxative to empty the colon. There are also other methods or medication you can try. Better ask your doctor or pharmacist about your options.
As for the procedure itself, patients are sedated into a “twilight state,” in which they can respond to instructions but don’t feel any pain. Once the sedation wears off, they often forget what happened. Sedation is a standard of care in the United States and it helps for the whole process to be much more tolerable.
Myth 4: Colonoscopy is the only way to screen for colorectal cancer.
While the procedure is regarded as a gold standard in the field because it can examine the entire colon and remove growths in one session, it is not the only screening option out there. In fact, you can take one in the comfort of your own home. Just provide a stool sample for lab analysis to look for traces of blood.
Patients who screened positive in the fecal occult blood test have a higher risk of cancer, so it’s important to get a follow-up colonoscopy. If you are younger than 50 and have other risk factors like smoking, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, obesity, or family history of colon cancer, talk to your health provider about your screening needs.
Myth 5: Colon cancer cannot be prevented.
Preventing the condition starts with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Many patients are unaware that having a diet high in red meat is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer reported that meat releases cancer-causing matter when it is prepared in direct contact with a flame or hot surface (i.e., on a barbeque or frying pan) or at high temperatures.
The review concluded that there is a probability of red meat causing colorectal cancer, especially if one consumes more than 500 grams a week. That’s about six servings of the recommended portion, which is only the size of a deck of cards. In comparison, there is more convincing evidence that cancer risk rises with the consumption of more than 50 grams per day of processed meat like sausage, bacon, or deli meat. Take two slices of bacon and that is already 50 grams.
Experts recommend backing away from the bacon and other red/processed meat. Load up on fruits, plants, and whole grains for a cancer-proof plate. Meat should take up only less than a quarter of the plate, and the rest should be fiber-rich vegetables and some kind of whole grain.
We hear misconceptions about cancers every day. When your health is on the line, it’s always good to verify each claim and be educated. Remember that colon cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable.
If you want to know more about screening tests and holistic therapies, turn to New Home Unlimited. Our team of medical experts is ready to help restore your body’s pre-cancer defense systems without all the side effects of conventional cancer treatments. Call us today at (480) 473-9808 for more information.