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Debunking Colorectal Cancer

March 01, 2017

Don't Fall For These Common Colorectal Cancer Myths

Did you know that colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths? If you didn’t, you’ve likely fallen for some of the common myths about colorectal cancer. Perhaps you’ve heard that it’s something that only affects older men, or that it can’t be prevented—neither of which are true.

While colorectal cancer may be one of the most deadly types of cancer, it’s also one of the most preventable and treatable. Amy McEachin, RN, oncology support clinic manager at Gwinnett Medical Center, provides some simple tips like eating a healthy diet rich in fresh produce, staying at a healthy weight, not smoking and limiting alcohol, all of which can make a big impact in colorectal cancer prevention. “Don’t forget,” Amy adds, “that learning more about colorectal cancer and its common myths are also essential for prevention and early detection.”

Myth 1: If I don’t have symptoms, I don’t have colorectal cancer.

Surprisingly, most people with colorectal cancer don’t have symptoms at all. Even in the event that symptoms are evident, they’re assumed to be the result of other medical conditions.

Some of the most common symptoms include: changes in stool, rectal bleeding, tiredness, persistent gas pain, bloating and unexplained weight loss. However, it’s important to note that by the time you notice symptoms, this may indicate that the cancer is at a more advanced stage.

Myth 2: Colonoscopies are uncomfortable and painful.

In this case, its name gives it a bad rap. Colonoscopies are not nearly as unpleasant as you may think. All in all, the procedure itself will last just 15 to 30 minutes, during which you are given sedating medication through an IV as you lay on your side.

When the scope is inserted, you may feel slight pressure, similar to the feeling of needing to have a bowel movement; however, many individuals don’t feel anything. When it comes to pre-test and post-test steps, yourdoctor will make sure you feel prepared and comfortable.

Myth 3: Only older white men get colorectal cancer.

While colonoscopies are primarily recommended for adults over 50, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact people of all ages. In fact, some studies have found that colorectal cancer is becoming more prevalent in adults ages 20 to 49.

Furthermore, colorectal cancer isn’t limited to just men; it affects both men and women of all races and ethnicities.

Myth 4: Colorectal cancer can’t be prevented.

This is far from the truth. Oftentimes, colorectal cancer begins with a small polyp, or growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Most polyps are benign, which means they aren’t cancerous. But over time, some polyps can begin growing abnormally, becoming cancerous. Enter colonoscopies, one of the best ways to find polyps before they become cancerous.

In addition to preventative screenings, there are key lifestyle factors that can significantly reduce your risk for colorectal cancer, including:

  • Staying at a healthy weight
  • Not smoking
  • Getting regular physical activity (getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily)
  • Limiting alcohol (no more than 2 drinks in a day for men and 1 drink a day for women)
  • Eating a healthy diet (more fruits, veggies and fish, limit red and processed meats)

Myth 5: Colonoscopies are the only type of screening.

In addition to colonoscopies, you can utilize colorectal screening kits. These kits detect the presence of blood in the stool, which can indicate a precancerous polyp or growth. Furthermore, these screening kits are surprisingly easy to use; after having a bowel movement, you simply put a reactive strip in the toilet and it will detect blood.

These effective kits are a great way to begin screening for colorectal cancer. Remember, though, that depending on your personal risk factors for colorectal cancer, like age, family history and lifestyle, it’s important to getcolonoscopies as often as your doctor recommends.

Myth 6: Colorectal cancer is genetic.

While there are some inherited conditions that can increase your risk for colorectal cancer, it is estimated that nearly 75 percent of colorectal cancer cases occur in individuals with no familial history of the disease.

Remember, there are a number of risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing colorectal cancer, family history being just one of them. It’s important to note, though, that if you do have a family history of colorectal cancer, familial adenomatous polyposis or lynch syndrome, you may need to start screenings earlier and have them more frequently. Check with your doctor for the recommended age you should start screening.

Making colorectal health easy.

This year alone, 140,000 adults will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. But with an extensive array of resources available to you through Gwinnett Medical Center, you can learn more about colorectal cancer, screen for it and treat it. Get started with colorectal cancer prevention today by ordering your free screening kit online or by calling 678-312-5000 and select option 1.

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