- There’s lots of different reasons why people don’t want to get screened for colon cancer. But everyone has the reason why they need to just go ahead and do it: someone loves you!
- Most cases of colon cancer happen in people with no risk factors and it’s happening in younger people.
- Screening for colon cancer can be done in many ways, including in the privacy of your own home. You need to talk to your doctor to find out what test is best for you and when you should get screened. The rule of thumb is that everyone between 45-75 should be screened. Earlier if you have risk factors.
A lot of people have the idea that getting screened for colon cancer is messy or embarrassing. Or kind of gross. Some people may think they don’t need to get screened because they are perfectly healthy. Or maybe they just don’t have any risk factors. Whatever your reason for not getting screened, it’s probably based on some misinformation. Today we’re going to look at some common myths about getting screened for the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the US. Then we’ll look at why those myths are wrong. Hopefully, you’ll recognize one of these as the reason you haven’t gotten screened and you’ll change your mind. (If you want to know more, click on the blue Fast fact below each myth for a link that will take you to an article with additional information.)
- MYTH: A colonoscopy is the only way to screen for colon cancer.
Fast fact: There are lots of ways to screen for colon cancer. Some can even be done in your own home and sent to a lab for testing. If you’re between 45-75 years old, or if you have risk factors, talk to your doctor about which test you should be getting.
- MYTH: I don’t have any risk factors for colon cancer, so I don’t need to get screened.
Fast fact: Over 75% of people who get colon cancer don’t have any risk factors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the best way to reduce your risk of getting colon cancer is to start getting screened beginning at age 45. You’ll need to keep getting screened on a regular basis, depending on which test you’re using
- MYTH: There’s really nothing I can do to keep from getting colon cancer.
Fast fact: The American Society of Colorectal Surgeons say that healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of getting colon cancer. Eat a healthy diet with lots of veggies, quit smoking and maintain a healthy weight. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
- MYTH: Colon cancer is a disease older people get.
Fast fact: Colon cancer has doubled in people under 50 since 1990. Not only that, but it’s being diagnosed at a more advanced stage. Doctor’s don’t really know why this is happening. If you have any risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting screened earlier. If you have any symptoms, see your doctor right away to get tested.
- MYTH: Having a colonoscopy is painful, messy and embarrassing!
Fast fact: Doctor’s don’t have a way to make you feel less embarrassed. But they can definitely make you comfortable for your colonoscopy. An anesthesia provider will make sure you’re sedated and pain-free. New “bowel preps” are much easier to tolerate- and less messy!- than in the past. A little bit of embarrassment is a small price to pay to find a polyp before it turns into cancer!
- MYTH: A polyp means I have colon cancer.
FAST FACT: A polyp is a benign (not cancer) finger-like piece of tissue. Some polyps could turn into cancer, but most don’t. Polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy and checked under a microscope to find out if there are any signs of cancer. If you’re between the ages of 45-75, talk to your doctor about getting screened.
- MYTH: I don’t have any symptoms so I can’t have colon cancer.
FAST FACT: Polyps don’t usually cause any symptoms. And colon cancer doesn’t cause symptoms early on. If you wait until you have symptoms to get checked, you might have missed the chance to find a polyp before it becomes cancerous. Get screened starting at age 45 or earlier if you have risk factors.
The bottom line:
John Andretti’s 60th birthday would have been March 12. And March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. The CheckIt4Andretti Foundation’s mission is to honor John’s memory by helping others beat colon cancer. Watch this video busting colon cancer myths from University of Chicago Medicine.
Most reasons people give for not getting screened are based on misinformation and not understanding what’s available today. Get the information you need by talking to your doctor. Check it for someone you love. Check it for someone who loves you. CheckIt4Andretti.