Myths vs. Facts About Colon Cancer

Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is a disease that occurs when cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. Of all cancers that affect both men and women, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

Some popular misconceptions about colon cancer may keep people from taking proactive steps, such as getting a colorectal cancer screening, to detect the disease early when it's most treatable. Here are some basic facts to debunk common myths about colon cancer and help save lives.
Colon cancer is fatal.  Unlike most cancers, colon cancer is often preventable and highly treatable, especially when caught early. Even in the most advanced cases, surgery and chemotherapy are very effective. Screening tests, such as colonoscopy, are the best way to detect colon cancer early when treatment works best. With early detection, colon cancer has a 90% survival rate.
Only people with a family history of colon cancer get it. A personal or family history of colon cancer or colon polyps increases a person's risk for colon cancer. Other risk factors include having:
  • Older age
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Hereditary syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
  • Type 2 diabetes
Colorectal screening is only necessary for people who have symptoms. Colon cancer doesn't always cause symptoms. That's why regular screening for colon cancer beginning at age 45 is essential, so your doctor can remove abnormal growths in the colon and rectum before they turn into cancer. People with increased risk should consult their doctor about when to begin screening, which tests to take and how often to get tested.
Young people don't get colon cancer.  Although most colon cancer cases affect older people, the disease increasingly affects younger people under age 50 by 2.2% each year.

If you're concerned about colon cancer, have personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps or have colon cancer symptoms, please don't wait too long to get medical care. We're here for you, always.

American Cancer Society
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Colorectal Cancer Alliance

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