Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. It's also the second most common cause of cancer-related death. Because of the taboo nature of this cancer, it is not discussed as often as other common cancers, such as lung and even breast cancer. Perhaps this is why there are so many false myths floating around about this deadly disease. In order to protect yourself, it's essential that you know the truth behind these myths.
Myth #1: Color cancer only happens in the elderly.
Although colon cancer is more common in older adults, 10% of cases do occur in people under the age of 50, and the number of people under the age of 50 who develop colon cancer is increasing. Thus, although 50 is the age at which most patients are advised to begin colon cancer screenings, those at an increased risk of the disease should begin screening earlier, as advised by their physicians. Those who have a family history of colon cancer, smoke regularly, or have had another form of cancer in the past are considered to be at an increased risk of colon cancer and should be screened early.
Myth #2: You'll know if you have colon cancer, since it causes obvious symptoms.
Actually, colon cancer does not tend to cause symptoms until it has progressed into its later stages. By the time you experience bloody stools, trouble defecating and abdominal pain, the disease will be very hard to treat. That's why screening is so highly recommended -- it detects the disease before symptoms arise, when it's much easier to treat.
Myth #3: If your doctor discovers a polyp during your colonoscopy, this means you have colon cancer.
There are many types of polyps, and most are actually not cancerous. If your doctor discovers a polyp during your colonoscopy, he or she will biospy it to determine whether it's cancerous. While there is certainly a chance you have cancer, it's unwise to panic prematurely when a polyp is found. Chances are, it's just a benign growth that can be quickly removed with no lasting side effects.
Myth #4: Colon cancer is most common in Caucasians.
Actually, colon cancer incidence and mortality rates are the highest in African Americans. Native Americans and Native Alaskans are also at an increased risk of the disease. This does not mean, however, that Caucasians don't need to worry about colon cancer. The disease can affect men and women of any age and any race.
The best way to protect yourself from colon cancer is with regular screenings. If you are over the age of 50 or at an increased risk because of your family history, smoking habits, or ethnicity, ask your doctor at places like Northwest Gastroenterology Associates about screening today. Scheduling a colonoscopy isn't pleasant, but it's a lot better than dying from cancer.