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Colon Cancer

Colorectal Cancer Myths and Realities

There is nothing I can do about getting colorectal cancer. (False)

Reality: Colorectal cancer can be prevented. Screening tests can detect polyps (grape-like growths on the lining of the colon or rectum) that can turn into cancer. Removing these polyps can prevent colorectal cancer from ever occurring. Starting at age 50, men and women who are at average risk should be screened regularly for colorectal cancer. New research suggests that African Americans may need screening at an even earlier age. Men and women who are at high risk of the disease because of personal and family medical history may need to be tested earlier and should talk with their health care professional about when.

Colorectal cancer is usually fatal. (False)

Reality: Colorectal cancer is usually curable when detected early. More than 90 percent of patients with early stage colorectal cancer confined to the colon or rectum are alive five years after diagnosis.

Colorectal cancer is a disease of older, white men. (False)

Reality: An equal number of women and men get colorectal cancer. An estimated 72,090 men and 70,480 women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2010 (SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Colon and Rectum). African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at later stages of the disease, and at a younger age.

Screening tests are necessary only for individuals who have symptoms. (False)

Reality: Since symptoms of colorectal cancer are often silent, it is important to get screened regularly. Screenings test for a disease even if the patient has no symptoms. About 75 percent of all new cases of colorectal cancer occur in individuals with no known risk factors for the disease, other than being 50 or older. If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease you may need to be screened before age 50. Talk with your health care professional.

Educate yourself and the ones you love

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, founded by the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation. Colorectal cancer is preventable, and is easy to treat and often curable when detected early. Talk with your health care professional about colorectal cancer today.

This content was taken directly from the 2007 NCRCAM Tool Kit and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2007.

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Last Reviewed: Aug 23, 2010

Tanios   Bekaii-Saab, MD Tanios Bekaii-Saab, MD
Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology
Associate Professor of Pharmacology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University