March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a time to remind families and friends about the importance of regular cancer screenings. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, but it is also one of the most preventable. Nearly 50 percent fewer people have died of colon cancer in recent years thanks to screenings.
This month, Steward Health Care is encouraging all of our staff and patients to get familiar with colon cancer and the importance of regular screenings. It can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction. Here is a list of the most common myths associated with colon cancer:
MYTH #1: Only Men Suffer from Colon Cancer
Colon cancer occurs in both men and women. The overall lifetime risk of developing colon cancer for women (1 in 24) is only slightly lower than it is for men (1 in 22). Of the nearly 53,000 people who will die from colon cancer this year, slightly more than half will be women. In fact, age is a much bigger risk factor than gender: more than 90 percent of colon cancer cases are found in people age 50 and older.
MYTH #2: Only People with a Family History of Colon Cancer Get It
About 75 percent of all new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in individuals with no known risk factors for the disease. That’s why the CDC recommends that all adults 50 to 75 years old get screened for colon cancer, although your doctor may advise you to begin screening at an earlier age if you have a history of the disease in your family.
MYTH #3: Colon Cancer Screenings are Not Covered Under Most Health Plans
Most insurance plans and Medicare help pay for colon cancer screening for people who are 50 years old or older. Colon cancer screening tests may also be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay.
MYTH #4: If I Get Diagnosed with Colon Cancer, It is Fatal
Colon cancer is often curable if it detected early enough. If found early, 90 percent of patients will be treated successfully. But because too few people are getting screened, only 4 out of 10 cases are found at this early stage. That’s why screening is so important!
MYTH #5: Colonoscopies are Painful
The colonoscopy is a common test, and most people only need one every 10 years. You will be sedated during the procedure to eliminate discomfort. The procedure itself takes 15 to 30 minutes, and you can resume normal activities the next day.
Wondering how you can be an advocate for colon cancer awareness? Even small steps, like encouraging a friend to get screened, can make a world of difference. Talk to your primary care doctor about having a colonoscopy or visit Steward DoctorFinder™ or call 800-488-5959.