“Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The great thing is that we have an excellent way to avoid it, and it’s called a Screening Colonoscopy. For an average-risk person, the age to get your first colonoscopy is 45 years old. Almost all colon cancer starts as precancerous growths called polyps. We remove these polyps during a screening colonoscopy before they grow into cancer.
I look forward to March because it is colon cancer awareness month. Elevating this awareness message is critical to help prevent colon cancer and is part of my mission as a gastroenterologist in Plano, TX. I love it when someone comes in for a colonoscopy and tells me that they learned about it over a dinner party or talking with friends who have gone through it say it’s no big deal. The more people that share this message, the more lives we can save. So if you have had your screening colonoscopy, please share your experience with friends, family, co-workers, or total strangers. You might be saving someone’s life!”
– Kenneth Brown, MD
Colon Cancer: 5 Misconceptions
1) Screening for Colon Cancer is only needed if you have symptoms
Truth: A common belief is that colon cancer screening is only necessary for those experiencing signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer — such as bleeding from the rectum, persistent changes in bowel movements, or unexpected weight loss. However, the truth is that it takes years for this cancer to progress to a point where you experience symptoms, which is why it is described as a “silent disease.” By the time a patient begins noticing problems, the disease is often more advanced and more challenging to treat.
Tip: Following the recommended colon cancer screening guidelines can prevent this cancer from developing. Factors such as age, medical history, family history, and ethnicity may play a role in the age your doctor recommends getting your 1st colonoscopy. Please have that conversation regardless of whether or not you are experiencing symptoms. Average-risk individuals should have their first screening colonoscopy at age 45.
2) Colon Cancer is an older person’s disease
Truth: While it is true that your risk of colon cancer increases with age, it can occur in younger adults & teenagers. In 2018, the American Cancer Society recommended that colon cancer screening starts at age 45, rather than 50, for average-risk individuals. This change was made due to a higher incidence of colon cancer in younger adults.
Tip: Don’t ignore your digestive symptoms, especially with younger adults. In some instances, common symptoms can indicate a more significant medical issue. Digestive diseases, like colorectal cancer, are easier to treat in the early stages of development.
3) The colonoscopy is painful and can be embarrassing
Truth: Colonoscopy is not a complicated procedure and is often easier than expected. Since patients are sedated, there should be no discomfort. Patient privacy is paramount during the exam. Their bottom is covered with a blanket, and the room lighting is turned down. The doctor and staff are looking at the screen displaying the visual from the camera, so there is no need to feel embarrassed.
Tip: Doing an excellent job with the prep is essential for a successful colonoscopy. Doing so provides a clear view of the colon for your doctor, which gives them the best opportunity to find polyps should they exist. While the prep can be unpleasant for some, newer prep kit solutions are easier to digest. Talk to your doctor if you ha