8 myths about colon cancer

8 myths about colon cancer

Colon cancer is a disease that has long been, and still is, fraught with misunderstanding and false embarrassment. Many people still do not know that colorectal cancer can be prevented through early detection and do not go to a check-up based on this misunderstanding. Others avoid screening because they believe they will inevitably die if they are diagnosed with colon cancer. Some women do not go to preventive care because they believe colon cancer is a male-specific disease, which would, therefore, not affect them. In addition to these few examples, there are still numerous myths in the population that entwine around the disease of colon cancer and colon cancer prevention and urgently need to be clarified. The most common myths will be discussed and corrected below.

Myth 1: There is nothing I can do about colon cancer.

Reality: Colorectal cancer can be combated very effectively through prevention. The chances of a cure for colorectal cancer are between 90 and 100 per cent if the cancer is detected in its early stages. Therefore, it is essential to go for colorectal cancer screening and to have the recommended colonoscopy from the age of 55.

People whose family has had bowel cancer or bowel polyps (a precursor to bowel cancer) should talk to their family doctor about it and have a screening colonoscopy done sooner. As a rule, people with an increased hereditary risk of colon cancer should have their first colonoscopy ten years before the first finding of colon cancer or polyps in the family.

Myth 2: Colon Cancer? Only older adults get that.

Reality: Many people believe that colorectal cancer can only be affected after a certain age. This is wrong! Unfortunately, colon cancer is hereditary and therefore, more and more young people are affected. Almost 20,000 people fall ill every year due to their family disposition alone – and often at a young age.

In total, around 60,000 people are newly diagnosed with colon cancer every year, and almost 26,000 patients die as a result. This is a tragic number when you consider that many tumours from this type of cancer take several years to reach fatal proportions.

Myth 3: Colon cancer is “usually” fatal.

Reality: Colorectal cancer is the only cancer that is almost 100 per cent preventable or curable through early detection. This is because this cancer forms precursors (called polyps). Malignant adenomas (the precursor to colon cancer) can only develop from these polyps, which are not yet cancer in the early stages. Suppose these polyps are discovered early during a colonoscopy. In that case, they can be removed directly during the examination (without surgery ), and the examined person can be sure of not getting colon cancer for the next few years.

If colorectal cancer is diagnosed during an examination, according to statistics, around 70 per cent of the colorectal carcinomas (colon cancer) discovered are still in an early stage of cancer, in which the chances of recovery are still excellent.


Myth 4: Men, in particular, are affected by colon cancer!

Reality: Adenomas or carcinomas are found earlier and more frequently in men than women. Since men also go to check-ups less often and only later, colorectal cancer in men is only discovered at an older age, which is why men die of colorectal cancer at a younger age on average. Colorectal cancer occurs on average in men at 69 and women at 75. Men are, therefore, more at risk of colorectal cancer than women.

Men are more affected by additional risk factors such as smoking, alcohol and obesity. Still, they have a higher risk of colon cancer because they make less use of preventive care options than women. This is primarily due to their health and body awareness. Men generally go to the doctor later than women. If there are no signs of illness, men often do not go to the doctor. In addition to their lower health awareness compared to women, men usually have a pronounced functional body awareness.

Conclusion: Men need to be aware of their increased risk of colon cancer and make more use of preventative services. As health managers of the family, women should motivate their husbands to take preventive measures – and, of course, take preventive measures themselves!

Myth 5: The virtual colonoscopy can replace the conventional colonoscopy.

Reality: The virtual colonoscopy (e.g. using computed tomography or magnetic resonance procedures) still needs to replace the conventional colonoscopy, also known as colonoscopy completely. However, it can be considered an alternative method, since larger polyps are reliably detected and the method is usually more comfortable. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the image quality of the recordings still needs to be improved to detect the most minor (less than eight millimetres) and flat changes in the intestinal mucosa.

In addition, there are always false impressions (artefacts) on the images since the intestine moves during the examination, even if the patient is lying very still during the process. In addition, a polyp can only be removed during a conventional colonoscopy, even if it is discovered during a virtual colonoscopy. In addition, the costs of a virtual colonoscopy are usually not covered by health insurance.

Myth 6: The stool blood test can replace a colonoscopy.

Reality: An annual stool blood test is instrumental in detecting occult (hidden) blood in the intestines, but on the other hand, colon cancer can still go undetected because polyps, which can be the precursors of colon cancer, only bleed at intervals, i.e. not continuously. Therefore, every positive stool blood test must be clarified by a colonoscopy to ensure no polyps or other diseases.

Repeated testing, for example, until a negative result is available, must not be carried out under any circumstances. This is explicitly stipulated in the medical guidelines. Only a colonoscopy can offer absolute security.


Myth 7: A colonoscopy is only necessary if there are symptoms.

Reality: Because the symptoms of colorectal cancer are often hidden, it is essential to have regular visits, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Colorectal cancer can only be detected in good time during a regular check-up. The safest method of detecting colorectal cancer is colonoscopy. The majority of new colon cancer cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 55 who have no known risk factors for the disease. Therefore, for people without a family risk, a colonoscopy is only recommended every ten years after age 55.

If there has already been a finding of colon cancer, polyps or chronic inflammatory bowel diseases in the family, you should do preventative care before the age of 55. As a rule, people with an increased hereditary risk of colon cancer should have their first colonoscopy ten years before the first finding of colon cancer or polyps in the family. Talk to your GP about it!

Myth 8: I have an annual colonoscopy.

Reality: For people without a family risk, a colonoscopy is only necessary every ten years after the age of 55. The health insurance company covers the costs for this. In the meantime, you can assume that you will not develop colon cancer. However, this only applies if the result of the previous reflection is negative.

The examination periods are shorter for people who have had polyps found and removed and those at hereditary risk. Depending on the diagnosis, this can vary between two and six years.

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