Debunking Colorectal Cancer Myths - Primary Health

Debunking Colorectal Cancer Myths

  • March 19, 2024

  • Adi Chandrasekhar, MD, MPH, FACP

  • 2 minutes

Test your health IQ against these common beliefs regarding the disease’s demographics, test options, and screening frequency.

Colorectal cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. This is truly unfortunate, given that a great screening strategy exists to diagnose it early. So for today’s post, we will focus on some common colorectal cancer myths and how to lower your own risk for developing it.

Myth #1: Colorectal cancer only affects older people

This myth is particularly dangerous because it misses a key demographic that can suffer from colorectal cancer: younger people. Better screening awareness and strategies have led to a gradual reduction in the incidence of colorectal cancer in older people. Conversely, we are witnessing an increase in rates for younger people. This is reflected in changing guidelines with cancer screening now starting at age 45 instead of previously at age 50. 

Some young people are particularly at higher risk for cancer, including hereditary colon cancer syndromes, family history, metabolic conditions, and alcohol use. Lack of awareness among young people often leads to later stages at diagnosis and poorer outcomes. 

Myth #2: Colorectal cancer screening can only be done by colonoscopy

Historically, colonoscopy remained the only widely adopted screening test for colorectal cancer. And it’s no surprise that many people are not fans of the procedure. While the procedure itself is quick and most patients do not recall many details due to medications provided beforehand, the required bowel prep using strong laxatives the day before the procedure can be problematic for some. Additionally, people need some help returning home after the procedure because of residual sedation and this takes some planning. 

Fortunately, colonoscopy is not the only way to get screened for cancer these days. Stool-based testing has come a long way with tests like Cologuard® providing an easy way for people to test within their homes and then mail out the sample.

Myth #3: Colorectal cancer screening is ‘one and done’

It is important to note that no matter what option you use for colon cancer screening, they all have a deadline to revisit testing. For a colonoscopy, this interval can be as long as a decade. However, that depends on findings during the procedure, which can shorten this interval. With Cologuard testing this interval is shorter, at around three years. It is also worth noting that these intervals are only for patients with no symptoms. If you develop any symptoms that are concerning for colon cancer, you must repeat testing sooner.

Now that you’re armed with accurate information, make sure that you evaluate your own risk for colon cancer with your provider. And if you manage a large population, learn how Primary.Health empowers communities, public health organizations and other groups to offer CLIA-waived point of care testing at scale for colorectal cancer and other health conditions.

Disclaimer: This blog content and linked materials are not intended as individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered as such. Any readers with medical concerns should contact a licensed healthcare provider. This blog is provided for informational purposes only.

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