Colon cancer screening can be lifesaving; don’t let any of these myths stop you from getting screened and taking an active role in your health.
Myth 1: If you don’t have any symptoms, you don’t need a colonoscopy.
The early stages of colon cancer rarely have symptoms. Once you see changes in bowel habit or blood in the stool, the cancer may be at an advanced stage. Early detection is the key to survival.
Myth 2: Women are less likely to get colon cancer, so they don’t need
Men have only a slightly higher risk. Colon cancer can strike any gender, ethnicity or age.
Myth 3: Colon cancer is a white man’s disease.
African American men and women actually have higher rates of colorectal cancer that any other racial or ethnic group in the country.
Myth 4: A colonoscopy isn’t accurate.
A colonoscopy accurately detects polyps so they can be removed, and dramatically reduces the chance of developing advanced-stage colon lesions.
Myth 5: Colonoscopies are expensive.
As a cancer screening test, there is usually little or no cost for a colonoscopy if you have private insurance or Medicare. Verify coverage with your insurance provider before your procedure.
Myth 6: A colonoscopy is too uncomfortable and painful.
It’s easier than you think. The sedation eliminates discomfort, and most people don’t remember the 15 to 30 minute procedure. You can return to normal activities the next day.
Myth 7: It’s impossible to swallow all the prep drink.
There are many options for cleaning out the colon, including taking half the prep the night before and the other half the morning of the procedure. Ask your doctor about what’s best for you.
Myth 8: My colon might get perforated during a colonoscopy.
Colonoscopies are extremely safe. The risk of perforation is less than 1 in 1,000. When performed by specially-trained professionals, the risk of bleeding during a colonoscopy is less than 1 percent.
Myth 9: Colonoscopy results bring bad news.
Most colonoscopies have favorable results. Most polyps found during the procedure are benign and can be removed during the colonoscopy.
Myth 10: Colonoscopy is the only way to screen for colon cancer.
There are other screening options, but the colonoscopy detects more cancers, examines the entire colon and can be used for screening, diagnosis and removing precancerous polyps in one visit.
Myth 11: A colon polyp means cancer.
Most polyps are harmless, and they are removed before they can turn cancerous.
Myth 12: Colorectal cancer can’t be prevented.
Removing polyps helps prevent colorectal cancer. Lower your cancer risk with exercise; eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains; limiting red meat and alcohol consumption; and not smoking.
This information has been reviewed and approved by Luette Morton, MD (February 2018).