Myths about colon cancer – The Portugal News


There are many myths surrounding colon cancer and the following information will help set the facts straight. If you’re concerned about colon cancer or have a strong family history of colon cancer, you should ask your doctor if you need to see a specialist.

The month of March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to gather information on the subject.

Myth: I can’t do anything about colon cancer.

Reality: You can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer by making lifestyle changes. Eating a low-fat diet high in vegetables and fruits and exercising can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. Because most types of colon cancer develop from precancerous polyps — growths on the lining of the colon and rectum — screening methods can detect and remove polyps BEFORE they turn into cancer. These include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, stool testing kits, and virtual colonoscopy.

Myth: Colon cancer is deadly.

Reality: Colorectal cancer can be curable if detected early. Over 90% of patients with localized colon cancer (limited to the colon or rectum) are alive five years after diagnosis. Unfortunately, only about a third of all colorectal cancers are diagnosed at this early stage.

Myth: Screening is only necessary for people with symptoms.

Reality: Since colorectal cancer is usually asymptomatic in the early stages, recommended screening tests are important to detect this type of cancer. Screening checks for cancer in a person with no symptoms. All men and women age 45 and older should have routine screening for colon cancer. Individuals with a personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps, or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, and those with symptoms such as rectal bleeding are considered to be at high risk and may need screening before the age of 45. Women with a personal or family history of ovarian cancer , endometrial or breast cancer may need to be screened before age 45.

Myth: Colonoscopy is a difficult procedure.

Reality: This exam is not painful. To minimize discomfort, the patient is usually sedated. Discomfort is usually caused by gas being introduced into the colon, a necessary procedure for the doctor to visualize the lining of the colon. The awkward part of the procedure is the preparation itself (or “bowel prep”), which must be done before the exam. However, it is of the utmost importance that this is done thoroughly. Inadequate preparation can result in missing findings such as polyps or the need to repeat the procedure.

Myth: Developing colon or rectal polyps means I have cancer and need surgery.

Reality: A polyp can be a precancerous condition that, if left untreated, can lead to colon cancer. If these polyps are caught early and removed before they can progress, colon cancer can be prevented. Most polyps are treated by removing them during colonoscopy. Even large polyps can be removed without surgery, although a colorectal surgeon or specialist may be needed to perform these procedures.

If a polyp is found to be cancerous, surgery may be needed to remove that specific part of the colon. Even when surgical intervention is required, many procedures can be performed using laparoscopic, robotic, or minimally invasive approaches, minimizing recovery time and pain and providing additional benefits.


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